Can Eating Dates Shorten Labor?

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Can eating date fruit shorten labor-science says it might
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Don’t you love when something really simple and inexpensive is actually the most effective option? Like when simple natural ingredients make the best laundry detergent? Or when children ditch the expensive toys and play for hours with a cardboard box or mixing bowl and spoon?

Can Eating Dates Shorten Labor?

I recently stumbled across a study that supports an old (mid)wives tale that eating dates (this type) might be the best way to naturally shorten labor and reduce the risk of induction.

Sound too good to be true?

I thought so too for years and wrote off the idea (partially because dates have always seemed too sweet to me and I didn’t want to eat them). Turns out, there is now some scientific evidence and anecdotal experience from many women that supports the ability of dates to shorten labor and contribute to a outcome.

The study, conducted in 2011 and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has some really interesting results from comparing two groups of women: those who consumed six dates per day in the last four weeks of labor and those who did not.

I also found it fascinating that in my completely un-scientific poll of friends and readers, those who consumed dates in later pregnancy did in fact have shorter labors (including a few friends who craved them and had labors under 2 hours!). My friend Genevieve ate dates in the last month of her pregnancy and had a shorter labor (and there are quite a few comments on her post from other women with the same experience!).

As someone who tends to have labors more on the 24-28 hour side, it was enough to intrigue me… disgust of dates or not.

The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Labor & Delivery

This study was very interesting, and not just because I’m a nerd who loves reading scientific studies. For any woman who has been through labor, this line from the study specifically should be intriguing:

The mean latent phase of the first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers (510?min vs 906?min, p?=?0.044).

In mom terms, that means that the 0-10 cm stage of labor was significantly shorter in woman who consumed dates compared to those who didn’t. In fact, those who consumed dates had an average 8.5 hours of first stage labor (0-10 cm) while those who didn’t had an average 15.1 hours of first stage labor.

Don’t get me wrong, compared to my usual 24+ hours, I’d gladly take either one, but for a woman in labor, 8.5 hours sounds a lot better than 15.1 hours!

Other points of interest from the study:

  • The women who ate dates were dilated an average of 3.5 cm upon admission, compared to 2 cm in those who didn’t
  • 96% of the women who consumed dates went into spontaneous labor and did not have to be induced (compared to only 79% of those who didn’t)
  • Only a small percentage of women who consumed dates needed pitocin (28%) vs those who didn’t consume dates (47%)
  • A smaller percentage of women who consumed dates had their membranes rupture in early labor compared to those who didn’t (17% vs 40%)

Overall, the study authors concluded that:

…the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.

What I’m Doing

That study and the stories I’ve read of dozens of women who tried eating dates in late stage pregnancy are enough to convince me to give dates a try this time. (These are the ones I’m ordering)

I’ll personally start sneaking 4-6 dates per day (six was the magic number in the study) into my meals starting at about 35 weeks (I tend to deliver at just over 39 weeks). Since I don’t love dates on their own, I’ll make some of these chia seed energy bars and some homemade almond milk to blend them in.

I’ll also be drinking my red raspberry leaf tea at that point and incorporating lots of natural movement like walking and squatting to help get my body aligned for labor.

I’ll let you all know in February how things go and if my labor was any shorter! Ever tried this? Did it work for you? Please share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


110 responses to “Can Eating Dates Shorten Labor?”

  1. Jessica Avatar

    I’m 35 weeks with my third and definitely going to add in dates! I never thought of this until now, but are you suppose to wash dates before eating them?

  2. Jill Waruszewski Avatar
    Jill Waruszewski

    Thanks for posting on this!! Worked perfectly for me. I didn’t read this study until after my first pregnancy, but I have eaten dates with homemade almond butter as dessert for 10+ years, so during my first pregnancy that was the daily routine. I also eat fresh pineapple for breakfast every morning. I had my son in less than 6 hours and the pain was very manageable, completely un-medicated. My water didn’t break until the last hour which I think made the labor less painful too, more cushion. Definitely recommend eating dates and pineapple throughout pregnancy. I’m now pregnant with my second and have the same routine, hopefully this labor will be just as quick.

  3. Mary Avatar

    I didn’t know you were expecting again! Congratulations! That whole ship has sailed for me, lol, but I hope it works for you!

  4. Lisa Avatar

    I love this! I never really ate dates until my 4 th pregnancy, but I craved them a lot. I really enjoy them in homemade Lara bars and homemade truffles. My labor with my 4 th was only intense for about 1.5 hours and it only took 3 pushes to get her out. My other labors were also fast but this one was much less painful. Maybe it was the dates!
    Congratulations and many blessings to you for a joyful pregnancy and birth!

  5. Aisha Avatar

    Didn’t know about this with my 1st and 2nd child so didn’t have any dates as not a big fan of them.

    1st labour was over 2 days…lead to being induced and rushed for forceps.

    2nd labour was long again…..Over 12 hours which lead to an emergency c section.

    However I ate 7 dates all through my 3rd pregnancy and during the start of labour (who doctors said would be an all day birth as well).

    At 2cms dilated……35mins later baby was born with no assistance and absolutely no pain relief. It wasn’t pain free but I wasn’t going to complain that in 35 mins I had dilated 8cms and pushed out a healthy baby. May we be Blessed those who had an easy birth to have more and those who have had difficulties be replaced with ease.

    On the plus side of dates. The doctors were amazed that after giving birth my iron levels were perfect….so in my opinion……7 dates a day and some during labour I would definitely recommend.

    1. fozia Avatar

      Hi aisha i was intrested to read you ate dates through out your pregnancy. If you don’t mind can you tel me how many dates you had a day please? Im 15 weeks and iv heard dates are good for pregnancy and labour.

  6. Rochelle Avatar

    I love dates so this gives me an extra excuse to chow down on them 🙂 I love putting them into my smoothies, with bananas. Banana date smoothie is the ultimate and you can have 5-6 in just one smoothie so it takes care of it for the day. I’m definitely going to try this!

  7. Sommer Avatar

    I ate 6 a day for the last month and we didn’t even get out the door to head to the birth center!! Had her in my bathroom!! Lol I set down my groceries at 7 and pushed her out by 7:20! It was crazy! But also awesome!

  8. Kim Avatar

    Not to burst your bubble, but while the first stage of labor includes dilation from 0-10 cm, the latent phase of the first stage is only from 0 to 3-4 cm. For me, the latent phase has lasted a few weeks with both of my babies, but was extremely mild and tolerable, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to shorten it too much or I’d be delivering too early. But my active phase has lasted 24-28 hours, so I’d be interested to see if anything shortens that phase of labor. I’ve always been 4 cm when I get to the hospital and I pretty much stay at 4-5 cm until my water is broken. I’m not sure how long my labor will last if I wait for my water to break on its own, but that’s what I plan to do with the next baby. I’m on the fence about dates for a variety of reasons. Last pregnancy I wanted to try them to hopefully avoid induction, but I had gestational diabetes and couldn’t justify the extra carbs. I’m hoping that won’t be a factor this time around.

  9. Liz Avatar

    It didn’t work for me at all! In fact, I went all the way to 42 weeks this pregnancy (my girls were on time and no date consumption happened with them!). Because I was 42 weeks, my water had to be broken…so no pitocin but definitely needed an natural induction to kickstart labor! I felt betrayed bc I actually dislike dates too 😛

  10. Laura Avatar

    I did this for my first pregnancy, and though I have nothing to compare it to personally, here is how my labour went: Waters broke 715pm. Admitted to birth center at 4am, 3.5cms dilated. Started pushing at approx 845am and healthy baby boy born at 950am. I’d say that went pretty well!! I am currently 15 weeks and will be eating dates again! I do quite enjoy them 🙂

  11. Alisha Avatar

    So this has nothing to do with whether this works or not but for those who said they don’t like eating dates you should try squeezing some fresh lime on them- delicious!

  12. Sunny Avatar

    How wonderful! Congrats on your current pregnancy! =)

    My first is due in April and this was nice to read. I think dates are too sugary too but I suppose spaced out throughout the day should be ok.

    My mom’s first was a c section. I came out VBAC in about 30 mins. Once my mom found out about me having her first grandchild she’s just been soooo excited. She told me about a month before the baby is due to drink coconut water and have a tablespoon of sesame seeds daily. She did that on the recommendation from her coworker who always had quick labors. Seems to work since she barely got admitted to the hospital and I wanted out haha

    I’m not so sure I will do the coconut water even though I like having it daily…. but even less so now as apparently it strips the vernix caseosa and the baby will be born without it at all. Though I hear that full term babies many times are born without it anyway. Reading other posters in other forums… It really does look like it helps bring on a quick labor. It looks to be something typically done in some Asian cultures…

    From reading about sesame seeds, it provides methionine which helps keep cysteine levels up and helps with skin elasticity. I’m guessing that could help preventing tears for sure and maybe help diltation…

    I’m all for short, pain free as possible labor but I really want to do whats best for the baby which is keeping the vernix on as much as possible, even considering a lotus birth since my friend mentioned it the other week (was going to cut the cord after pulsing stopped, but the other seems more beneficial for the baby). Also trying home birth and water birth.. basically anything I can do for my baby… since this baby is most likely my first and only one.

    I know you’ll try out the dates, but would you consider the coconut water and sesame as well? It seems to be great for very quick labors from the births my mother has been telling me about, friends, etc. Or are you set on solely the dates?

  13. Sierra Gerdes Avatar
    Sierra Gerdes

    Very interesting. I had a short labor with my first in 2008 (5 hours!). Now I’m pregnant with my 2nd and due in March. We’re planning another homebirth with a midwife so I will definitely be adding dates to my diet in February and see how things go.

  14. Antoinette Avatar

    I never knew this was a thing until this post, but it worked for me! I’d been regularly eating several dates a day for a few years (an Ayurvedic practice for nourishing the body’s tissues) and continued during pregnancy. My water broke at 37 weeks, and although I had regular contractions, they were painless, so my midwife gave me pitocin. Once that kicked in, I had 3 hours of manageable pain until my son was born. Despite the pitocin, they didn’t even think I was fully dilated until I said I needed to push. It was an incredible experience.

  15. Kristen Avatar

    I ran into this study when I was pregnant 4 years ago, ate tons of dates…and labored for 2 1/2 days!! But it was my first baby and I would definitely try it again based on the research. Great post, thanks!

  16. Katina Avatar

    I happen to love dates, but love them the most in the afternoon in a great date based bar. I usually add in coconut and pecans, and also tart cherries are divine in them too. They keep me from eating sweets during my after lunch slump and I will now definitely keep up this habit til I am due in Feb! This is the link to the recipe

  17. Amy Avatar

    Will any type of dates work, not just the type you suggested? Is there a benefit of one type over another? Thanks!

    1. Angela Avatar

      I was wondering the same thing! I have dates in my pantry right now…I love them but they r not the medjool dates….they r the deglet noor dates. (Cheap at Costco for a massive bag)

  18. Erin Avatar

    I don’t know if it made my labor shorter, but consuming about 6 a day in my last 3 weeks of pregnancy helped me go into labor on my own! This time my son was only 2 days late, as compared to my first (did not eat dates) who was 9 days late and I had to be induced! I also went in only at 1 cm with my first (no dates) and a 4 with my second (ate dates). Total labor with both was about the same, 12 hours for my first, 10 for my second. Hope that helps–overall I recommend them! I also used a midwife with my second, and that I cannot recommend enough!

  19. Elizabeth Avatar

    I’ve heard of this. I never got the chance to try. All of my babies came 3-7 weeks early and labors were so fast that the dr didn’t even make it in the room. My smallest baby was nine pounds even, and I can’t imagine how big they would have been if they waited until 38+ weeks. I’d like to know how to prevent jaundice, I guess late pre term babies tend to suffer from jaundice.

    1. Becca Avatar

      My Mom swears by lemon water. The lemon acts as a natural liver detox among other benefits. I drank it a lot in my first trimester and am starting up again in these last 6 weeks of pregnancy. Just half a lemon in 8 ounces of water a day, you don’t want to over to it. Hope that helps! This is my first so hopefully it works for me too, as well as the dates!

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