Updated: Apr 9, 2021
No, I'm not talking about the romantic dates, though I'm a big fan of those too! I'm talking the sweet, wrinkly fruit dates. You may have heard about eating dates at the end of pregnancy being beneficial, but why? What's the deal with dates?
Claims About Dates
Many moms claim that eating dates helped them:
have a short(er) labor
have an easier labor
have less painful labor
go into labor naturally
have fewer medical interventions
Evidence on Dates and Labor
While this may sound a bit like just another old wives tale, studies suggest there is some evidence to back up these claims.
Studies note that women who ate 70-75g (6 dates) each day from 36 weeks onward had a significantly higher Bishop Score when going into labor and were more dilated at the moment of admission to the hospital than the control groups. These findings were attributed, in one study, to the date fruits impacting oxytocin receptors which in turn led to more effective contractions, better preparing the cervix for labor.
A considerable difference in rate of medical induction necessary has been identified - more women in the date-eating groups had spontaneous labor. What's more, women in the date-eating groups had shorter first stage of labor compared to the control group.
Dates have not been found to induce labor in any of these studies. What was found a connection to dates and cervical ripening.
Things to Consider
If you choose to eat dates for the purpose of having more effective contractions and cervical ripening here are a few things to consider:
Dried fruits are higher in sugar than their fresh counterparts. When choosing dates, you can look at the nutritional information to see if sugar has been added. You may be surprised to see how often sugar is added to dried fruit!
Dates, and most dried fruit, have plenty of fiber and may help with bowel movements in late pregnancy
If you don't enjoy eating 6 dates a day (a lot of women don't like the taste or find it overwhelming) you can put the dates in a smoothie to drink instead
There aren't many downsides to trying eating dates, but it's also not a must-do in order to have a positive birth. As always, follow your own values and intuition (and consult with your medical care provider) when deciding whether to eat dates daily the last few weeks of pregnancy.
Links and Resources
The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989
Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health
Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28286995
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