The Pregnancy Podcast – Will Eating Dates Help Your Labor?

Why this podcast?
If you are a regular here then you’ll know how much I LOVE this podcast. Evidence-based, easy to follow episodes of thirty minutes or less giving you the low-down on pretty much everything and anything you might want to know about pregnancy and birth.

This really is a fantastic place from which to start your journey to informed decision making.

The host, Vanessa Merten, has just had her second baby, a little girl, so huge congratulations to you, Vanessa!

Vanessa somehow manages to give you the nuts and bolts of the research on each topic (and links to the studies in the show notes) while still making each episode fun and easy to listen to.

The Pregnancy Podcast, Vanessa states, is –

“the tool I wish I had when I was expecting”

How does it look?
The Pregnancy Podcast has three different types of episodes.
40 weeks keeps you informed about what’s going on with you and your baby in each week of your pregnancy. These episodes are a super short five minutes each.

The Pregnancy Podcast is split into two different episode styles. The ten minute Q&A episodes have featured areas such as insemination and judgement from family, placenta encapsulation, ectopic pregnancy, Misoprostol, acupuncture for a breech baby, perineal massage, ultrasound accuracy and the fear of things not going as planned.

The main episodes are thirty minutes or less and have covered what to expect postpartum, constipation during pregnancy, labour signs, using a TENS machine, tips for better sleep during pregnancy, all kinds of interventions, breastfeeding basics and challenges, labour positions and doulas.

With nearly a hundred and twenty episodes this podcast is really a great place to begin your research.

Why this episode?
This struck me as a really interesting yet super simple concept. If eating a few dates could help with softening and dilating the cervix and, potentially, lower the risk of having labour induced or augmented with medication, how amazing would that be?

Who should listen to this episode?
Anyone who is expecting and especially those who may have experienced induction before and are keen to try and avoid it this time.

If you are diabetic or have other medical reasons to watch your sugar intake, please keep in mind that dates are very high in sugar. This may not be the method for you.

The episode
As well as a lot of sugar, dates also contain iron, magnesium, potassium, fibre and vitamin B6. So, they seem pretty good for you but could they actually go some way to inducing and shortening your labour?

Let’s see!

Study #1
In 2011 a small study was carried out in which a group of women ate 6 dates per day from 36 weeks pregnant. These women had “significantly higher mean cervical dilation upon admission” than those who ate no dates.

Spontaneous labour, labour starting with no intervention, occurred in 96% of the women who consumed dates compared to 79% of those who did not.

The use of Pitocin, which is the synthetic version of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, and is used to induce or augment labour, was significantly less in the women who ate dates and their first stage of labour, where the cervix dilates to ten centimetres, was also shorter.

These results seem to show that eating dates in the last four weeks of pregnancy could significantly reduce the chances of your labour being induced or augmented.

Sounds great, right?

Vanessa points out, however, that this study was a very small one, with a total of only 69 women.

On the other hand, the results were interesting enough to encourage more research.

Study #2
In 2013 a clinical trial was carried out with a much larger group, 210 to be exact. The group was split into two and those who ate dates from week 37 had higher rates of cervical ripening (where the cervix is getting soft).

The researchers were confident enough in their findings to recommend that women consume dates in the last few weeks of their pregnancy.

But wait, there’s more!

The study also found the rates of vaginal birth were higher and that the rate of cesareans and the use of Pitocin and forceps, was lower in the women who ate dates.

Not only that but for the women who were induced, those who had eaten dates had much higher rates of success than those who had not.

Study #3
This research was published very recently, in 2017, and included a group of 154 women.
The date-eating group had less of a need for their labours to be augmented with pitocin.

Apart from that, any differences between the women who did and those who did not eat dates were not statistically significant.

To wrap up
Whilst there is no absolute proof that eating 6 or 7 dates a day from 36 or 37 weeks pregnant will help you avoid induction, this research, as Vanessa puts it, is “pretty promising”.

As long as there is no medical reason for you not to consume this high-sugar fruit, it seems that eating a handful of dates in the last few weeks of pregnancy could be really beneficial in helping your labour start and progress naturally.

It might just be worth try.

Has anyone tried eating dates in the run-up to their guess date? Can you compare that to a pregnancy where you did not? Do you feel there were any differences?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you found this interesting you might want to listen to this one too:

The Pregnancy Podcast – Group B Strep

“Group B streptococcus is a type of bacterial infection. It can create some complications for you when you are pregnant and has the potential to cause some serious complications if it is passed to your baby. This episode covers what is involved in the testing, how group B strep is treated, and how you can reduce the risks to your baby.

This episode also explores some research on what you can do to decrease your risk for group b strep during pregnancy and prevent the possibility of ever becoming colonized.”

Until next time!

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.
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