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. Erika Dellatorre Avatar
    Erika Dellatorre

    Hi! I am just curious if this ended up working for you? I am due with my 1st this april 🙂

  2. Ginger Avatar

    I don’t like dates but started craving them, out of the blue, at 27 weeks! A week later I read the ACOG findings and it confirmed, one more time, that I need to trust my body. Pregnancy at 41 is no joke ladies. I feel fortunate that I know myself and have really strong intuition.

  3. Tiffany Avatar

    I LOVE dates and really want to try this but they are are high in sugar and I have borderline gestational diabetes. Any tips on including them in my diet and not raising my blood sugar too much? Maybe stuffing with coconut oil or coconut butter?

  4. Katie Avatar

    I decided to give the dates a try after hearing from my sister about them. . . . figured I might be able to tell a difference after my 4 boys were all born with 10-17 hours of labor, many hours of hard labor. I ate 6 dates a day starting four weeks before my due date. Baby was born 15 days late (first 4 were anywhere from 10-20 days late, so that was unchanged by the dates) after an easy 6-hour labor, two hours of hard labor. By far my shortest and easiest birth and baby was a healthy 11lb 6oz boy! Definitely doing the dates next time!

  5. Marcia Avatar

    I have just given birth to a beautiful 8lb 8.5 baby girl. I read this post & decided to give it a shot! No harm trying. I ate 6 organic mejool dates a day from week 35, I also drank Red Raspberry leaf tea as in my previous pregnancy.
    I went into spontaneous labour at 39 weeks & 2 days. However I did have acupuncture & a sweep to try to get things moving due to my age & associated risks once you reach 39 weeks. My labour was intense & super fast the first stage was 3hrs! Total labour was 3hrs 21 mins not included the 3rd stage. Which was 36 minutes. I had my daughter in a birth pool at home, with no complications…just as I wanted!
    My first labour was 9hrs 40. Which isn’t that long for a first one.
    So in conclusion maybe the dates did help? I couldn’t really say either way, it may have been fast regardless.
    I know that if I never see another mejool again as long as I live I will be happy! I used to love them, but eating 6 a day is a real chore! Worth it though if it contributed to my fast delivery.

  6. Leah Avatar

    Would the dates be safe to eat before the due date? I’m currently 22 weeks and eat them everyday

  7. Serena Avatar

    My midwife suggested this to me along with red raspberry leaf tea due to the fact that i had symptoms of pre-eclampsia and was at risk for being induced if my blood pressure got too high or my baby was in distress. I was put on bed rest at 35 weeks and ate 4 medjool dates everyday along with drinking the raspberry leaf tea …This was my first child and gave birth to her at 37.5 week…. my labor was only 5.5 hours start to finish! Don’t know if it was a coincidence or if the dates really worked but i was happy to have a natural childbirth and not be induced or receive any unnecessary drugs.

  8. Ash Avatar

    I definitely beleive it worked for me ! I ate dates and date squares for the weeks leading up to my due date. I was 6 days overdue and my water broke naturally.
    I was in labour from start to finish for 12 hours, and only 2 of those hours were truly painfull. I went from 3 cm dilated to 10 , in 2 contractions. I will definitely be eating dates in my next pregnancy!

  9. Namrata Barve Avatar
    Namrata Barve

    Great to read all the personal experiences! I am due in September and will definitely try this.

    Wellness Mama, did you have the baby yet?

  10. Nikki Ledford Avatar
    Nikki Ledford

    I wonder how much of this is Psychosomatic? But hey, if anything helps right?

  11. Candice Avatar

    It’s February! ? Hoping they help provide a fast complication free delivery, keep us updated! I’m due with my 4th in June and defiently going to try it.

  12. Michelle G Avatar
    Michelle G

    I am obsessed with dates. I don’t buy them because I will eat-them-all-right-now! But I ate a lot in late pregnancy with my last (probably 6-8 per day) and had a baby within 4 hours of my first contraction. It was also my first labor because my first born was delivered c section.

  13. Hannah Avatar

    I ate 6 dates per pay during my last 2 months of pregnancy, and drank red raspberry leaf tea,, with Baby #1. Before giving birth, I noticed signs of early labour (mucus plug, slight contractions) around noon, and had very little pain or discomfort until 10 p.m. We went to the hospital as I was having contracts about 2-3 minutes apart. I was 1 cm dilated, so I was sent home. Less than an hour later, my water broke and we went back to the hospital. I was now 10 cm dialated (2 a.m.). After one hour of waiting to push and finally pushing, Baby arrived. In total, I would say my intense labour lasted only 5 hours maximum! I will definitely be using both dates and the tea for my other pregnancies!

  14. Amber Avatar

    Curious to hear if it helps you. I’m due March 3rd and eating dates this time around (#4).

  15. Sara Avatar

    I’m 35 weeks and wanting to order some dates, but I see that the ones you recommend aren’t organic. I’m not finding a lot of evidence one way or the other online…are pesticides a concern with dates?

  16. Claire Avatar

    Wellness mama, when is your due date? I am due March 24 and will be eating medjool dates 6 per day starting at 34 weeks.

    My first labor was 25 hours all unmedicated and very hard. They had to break my water when I was stuck at 8cm for a few hours. Baby was sunny side up and pushing took four hours. I am so hoping and praying for a shorter labor this time!! Let us know how it went for you when you have your babe!

    1. Monique Avatar

      I’m 35 weeks today and going to give the 6 dates a day a try, I already incooprerate them into my smoothies most days but today I made date almond milk! So yummy! Fingers crossed I’m praying for a fast delivery

      1. Beth Avatar

        Oh sorry!! I saw 2015 and was thinking post was from last year! I’m due February 14th and have been eating my dates for the past couple weeks too! Keeping fingers crossed! My twin sister and good friend both had babies in December and ate dates a month before and both went few days early and both had active labors less than 5 hours! Hoping I follow suit…and you too! Good luck!!

  17. Rachele Avatar

    My first labor was 23 hours – had almost every intervention out there… membranes broke, petocin administered, epidural and vacuum assist. I happened to read about eating dates when I was pregnant with my second. I love dates and figured I had nothing to lose by eating them. Through most of my pregnancy I replaced the raisins in my morning oatmeal with sliced up dates. Hard to say if it was the dates, but I had a 3 hour labor, start to finish. Contractions started at 11pm, got admitted to the hospital at 12:50am, at which time I was only 4cm. I delivered my little girl at 2am. She crowned from contractions alone and my membranes didn’t rupture until this point. She was just shy of 8lbs, too. I have told numerous mommies-to-be about this date study – whether it works or not – its worth a shot to try! I’d take my second labor over my first one any day!

  18. gemma Avatar

    Hi all, would you say regular dates or medjool as not sure on what the difference is relating to this method?
    Thanks 😉

  19. Wyn Avatar

    I am afraid to try this because I am due on January 19th, but I have SO much going on at work the week before. I really need to be there through the 15th if at all possible. In afraid to try anything that might make me go into labor earlier! Do the dates only shorten labor time, or is there a chance they could make me go into labor any earlier?

    1. Mara Avatar

      HAAA!! This reminds me of a Gilmore Girls episode where a character goes into labor before her scheduled due date. “Sherry really screwed up!!” “I wrote it down!”
      Baby’s coming when baby’s coming. Due dates are less than 10% accurate. So good luck!

      1. Erica Avatar

        Haha! My mother was like this with my children. We shall see with number 5…Love Gilmore Girls!

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