When it comes to childbirth, we all want to have an easy, short, and healthy labor and delivery. Luckily, there are a number of things we can do to help us achieve that, such as:

And now you can add one more thing to your list: Eating dates during pregnancy.

Yes, dates.

Three separate studies suggest that eating dates during pregnancy can help you have an easier labor and birth

All three studies found fairly consistent results. Let’s break them down.

Study #1, published in 2011: The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery

According to this study, women who ate 6 dates a day for the four weeks leading up to their due date were:

  • 74% more dilated than non-date eaters at admission to birthplace
  • 38% more likely to have intact membranes
  • 21% more likely to spontaneously go into labor
  • 28% less likely to use prostin/oxytocin to induce labor

Additionally, the date eaters had:

Study #2, published in 2014: The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Cervical Ripening in Nulliparous Women

Published in the Journal of Midwifery & Reproductive Health, this study looked at date consumption in late pregnancy as it related to cervical ripening, and it found that women who ate 70-75 grams of dates per day after 37 weeks pregnant had:

Plus, the date eaters were

  • 55% less likely to use oxytocin to induce labor
  • 68% more likely to have a successful vaginal delivery after labor induction

“Nulliparous” in the study title means women who have never given birth before.

Study #3, published in 2017: Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery.

Published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, this study supported all the initial findings. The authors concluded that:

Dates fruit consumption during late pregnancy has been shown to positively affect the outcome of labour and delivery without adverse effect on the mother and child.”

Side note: This 2007 study suggests that eating dates after delivery results in less blood loss than intramuscular oxytocin.

Why would eating dates during pregnancy help?

Researchers found that date fruit has an oxytocin-like effect on the body, leading to increased sensitivity of the uterus. Dates may also help stimulate uterine contractions and reduce postpartum hemorrhage the way oxytocin does. They also found that dates contain many nutritional benefits for pregnant mamas.

“Date fruit contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which are involved in saving and supplying energy and construction of prostaglandins. In addition, serotonin, tannin, and calcium in date fruit contribute to the contraction of smooth muscles of the uterus. Date fruit also has a laxative effect, which stimulates uterine contractions.”

Dates also contain:

  • Natural sugars (fructose) that easily break down in the body and won’t spike blood sugar levels but will offer high energy, which makes dates during pregnancy or  labor an excellent choice.
  • Fiber – Helps you stay full, relieves constipation, and lowers your risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
  • Potassium – One of the best electrolytes. It helps maintain water/salt balance which helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Magnesium – Support muscular health and helps to alleviate muscle spasms and cramps in pregnancy.
  • Folate  – Getting enough folate will ensure that your baby’s spinal cord matures properly, avoiding neural tube defects.
  • Vitamin K – maintains proper blood clotting and healthy bones.

When should you start eating dates during pregnancy?

In the studies referenced above, pregnant women began eating dates three or four weeks before their estimated due date.

In other words, at 36 weeks pregnant or 37-weeks pregnant they began eating 70-75g of dried dates per day.

Of course, you can begin eating dates earlier in your pregnancy if you like. Keep in mind that dates are high in sugar, so if you have blood sugar issues or if you’re worried about group b strep, go easy on them early in pregnancy. But, by all means, start eating 6 dates a day from 36 weeks on!

How many dates during pregnancy should I eat each day?

Six dates per day is the magic number – provided that you’re eating smaller deglet noor dates.

  • Deglet noor dates are about 1 inch long.
  • Medjool dates can be up to 2 inches long.

If you’re eating medjool dates, you only need about 3 dates to reach the 75 grams recommended in the studies.

Not sure which type of date you have in your refrigerator? It’s probably a deglet noor. They account for over 90% of the dates grown in the USA.

What kind of dates are best—Deglet Noor or Medjool?

The 2007 study mentioned above specifies deglet noor dates, but I’m guessing that the deget noor variety was used in all the studies.

In the 2014 study, participants were given 70-75 grams (2.5-2.6 oz) of dates per day in three divided doses, which is equal to approximately 6 deglet noor dates.

By comparison, 6 medjool dates weigh around 135 grams, or twice as much as deglet noor dates.

Nutritionally, medjool dates and normal deglet noor dates are nearly identical.

So which should you consume? I think either would be fine, but if you’re eating the larger medjool dates, you only to need to eat around three per day.

Where can I buy good organic dried dates?

You can’t go wrong with any of the organic options at the top of this page. ?

How to eat dates during pregnancy

Dates are a healthy and delicious snack, so how can you add them to your diet? Actually, it’s pretty easy since they are sweet like candy.

  • Add dates during pregnancy in this awesome oatmeal recipe.
  • Add dates to replace sugar in your favorite recipe or to sweeten your homemade almond milk.
  • Use dates and nuts to make an easy pie crust in the food processor.
  • Add soaked dates to homemade nut butter for a sweet treat.
  • Add dates to sweeten homemade salad dressing.
  • Add dates during pregnancy easily with these yummy (paleo friendly) bars made from dates.

Don’t like the taste of dates?

Try eating your daily dates with peanut butter (or any nut butter) and a little sea salt. A mama in our birth class tried this, and she went from barely choking her dates down to considering them a delicious snack! And it didn’t require busting out a food processor or any other hard work. Double win! 

Need more ideas for an easy labor?

Try these…

  1. Exercise – Regular exercise before and during pregnancy can help shorten labor, ease discomfort and avoid exhaustion during labor. Try these 7 easy exercises to prepare for birth.
  2. Get baby into an optimal position – Often baby’s position is the reason women go past their due date, have difficult labors or require induction. Though there’s no such thing as easy childbirth, getting baby in the best position before labor begins give you the best chance for a shorter and easier labor.
  3. Choose the right childbirth class and pain management technique – The right childbirth class should inform and empower you to make the best decisions for you and your baby and helps you to gain confidence in your body’s ability to give birth. IT should also help you learn some natural pain coping techniques (way better than chemical ones!).
  4. Excellent nutrition – Being properly nourished with real food can go a long way to keeping your strength up and increase stamina during labor.

What other moms have to say about dates during pregnancy:

I asked the moms on my Facebook page if they ate dates during pregnancy, and if they think the dates helped. Here are some of their responses.

  • I faithfully ate the recommended amount of dates each day from 35 weeks on and my nurse and Doctor both commented on how soft my cervix was! I had a great labor and delivery and dates definitely played a role in that. – Ginnette L.
  • Dates are awesome to eat while pregnant! All 3 times I ate dates in the last month or so of pregnancy. My labors were all very quick (each 4 hrs from the first contraction to delivery). -Barbara A.
  • I always joke that the only reason my labors were quick and easy was because of my date obsession. My longest labor was 9 hrs, but I was induced. My shortest was 3 hours and I only has to push 4 times. With my nine hour labor I didn’t have to push once…he just came out on his own. -Rochelle H.
  • Ate 6 a day from week 35 on. Labor was 1.5 hours and no tearing. Water broke right before baby’s head came out. – Nicole M.
  • I ate at least 6 a day, sometimes more the last 5 weeks of pregnancy. It definitely helped with dilating and thinning. After 5 hours of labor I was dilated 6-7 and 100% effaced. In another half hour I was complete! I give the dates a lot of credit for that. My doctor commented on how soft my cervix was whenever he checked me those last few weeks. – Michelle T.
  • I ate them almost everyday, and my doctor said I effaced a lot faster than other first time moms. When I went into labor I was already 80%! – Trisha P.

How about you?

Did you eat dates during pregnancy? Do you think it made your labor easier?

References

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28286995
  • http://jmrh.mums.ac.ir/article_2772_0.html
  • https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/577747
  • http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/medjool-dates-farming-expand-fourfold-amid-rising-demand
  • http://articles.latimes.com/1995-10-05/food/fo-53386_1_deglet-noor – (“The vast majority of California’s date harvest–90% to 95%–is the Deglet Noor”)
  • Comparing the Efficacy of Dates and Oxytocin in the Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage (PDF). Shiraz E-Medical Journal April 2007. Khadem N, Sharaphy A, Latifnejad R, Hammod N, Ibrahimzadeh S.