Find out how eating dates during pregnancy can help you have a better birth, plus learn about other natural ways to improve delivery.
When it comes to childbirth, we all want to have an easy, short, and healthy labor and delivery. While there are a number of things you can do to help achieve that, there’s evidence that something as simple as eating dates during pregnancy can also help. Yes, dates.
Why Does Eating Dates During Pregnancy Help?
Research suggests the date fruit:
- Has an oxytocin-like effect on the body, leading to increased sensitivity of the uterus.
- Stimulates uterine contractions.
- Reduces postpartum hemorrhage the way oxytocin does.
“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 have many nutritional benefits, including:
- Natural sugars (fructose) that easily break down in the body and won’t spike blood sugar levels, but offer high energy.
- Fiber that 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, which supports muscular health and helps alleviate muscle spasms and cramps in pregnancy.
- Folate, which ensures your baby’s spinal cord matures properly, avoiding neural tube defects.
- Vitamin K, which maintains proper blood clotting and healthy bones.
More Evidence Supporting Dates During Pregnancy
Three separate studies suggest that eating dates during pregnancy can help you have an easier labor and birth—and all three studies have fairly consistent results.
1. According to this study, women who ate six 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:
2. Published in the Journal of Midwifery & Reproductive Health, this study looked at date consumption in late pregnancy as it related to cervical ripening, and 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
3. 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.”
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When Should You Start Eating Dates During Pregnancy?
In the studies referenced above, pregnant women began eating 70-75g of dried dates per day three or four weeks before their estimated due date.
Of course, you can begin eating dates earlier in your pregnancy if you like. But keep in mind that dates are high in sugar. If you have blood sugar issues, go easy on them early in pregnancy. But, by all means, start eating six 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 percent 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 six deglet noor dates.
By comparison, six 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? Either one is 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.
high quality organic dates during pregnancy
How to Eat Dates During Pregnancy
Dates are a healthy and delicious snack, so how can you add them to your diet?
- 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! ? You can find more recipes here!
What Other Moms 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 three times I ate dates in the last month or so of pregnancy. My labors were all very quick (each four hours 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 nine hours, but I was induced. My shortest was three hours and I only has to push four times. With my nine hour labor I didn’t have to push once—he just came out on his own. — Rochelle H.
- Ate six 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 six a day, sometimes more the last five weeks of pregnancy. It definitely helped with dilating and thinning. After five hours of labor I was dilated 6-7 and 100 percent 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 every day, and my doctor said I effaced a lot faster than other first time moms. When I went into labor I was already 80 percent! — Trisha P.
Need More Easy Ideas for Labor?
- 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!).
- Consider working with a birth doula: A birth doula is your best friend and advocate during childbirth.
- Choose the right birthing location: Home birth, birth center, or hospital—the choice is up to you. Look into all of the available options before making a final decision about what’s right for you and the birth you want.
- Know your options: Learning about routine interventions, like epidurals and Pitocin, can help you stay in control of your natural birth.
- Practice perineal massage: This can help prevent tearing during childbirth.
- 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.
- Excellent nutrition: Being properly nourished with real food can go a long way to keeping your strength up and increase stamina during labor. This includes taking the right prenatal vitamin.
- 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.
How About You?
Did you eat dates during pregnancy? Do you think it made your labor easier?
- 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.