Dates & Effective Labor - What’s the Connection?
Are you looking for ways to help you get through an unmedicated birth? Most likely if you are reading this, you have already made some important choices to aid in this goal. Mainly, choosing midwifery care and homebirth! You may have also chosen to hire a doula or someone who can help provide emotional and physical support through labor, attended a childbirth education class, and practiced prenatal yoga. You may have read natural pregnancy and birthing books and taught your partner exactly how to be the best support person. There are endless ways to improve individual birthing experiences.
One more way to help with your labor and birth can be found in your diet! Beyond eating nourishing food and staying hydrated, new studies have found that dates can help during this transition from pregnancy to your baby being born.
This study was of people eating 6 dates per day, for 4 weeks before their estimated due date.
Here are the findings: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989
“The women who consumed date fruit had significantly higher cervical dilatation upon admission compared with the non-date fruit consumers- 3.5 cm vs 2cm.
The date eaters had significantly higher proportion of intact membranes upon admission (83% vs 60%).
Spontaneous labour occurred in 96% of those who consumed dates, compared with 79% women in the non-date fruit consumers.
The first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers- 8.5 hours vs 15 hours.”
This study “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 favorable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.”
This study: http://jmrh.mums.ac.ir/article_2772.html evaluated 1st time parents only.
Starting at 37 weeks, the date-eating group ate 70-75 grams/day (3-4 dates) until the onset of labor. In this study, they used the Bishop Score to measure the results. The Bishop Score uses 5 measurements to determine how likely a vaginal delivery is, especially if an induction is attempted. These include: cervical dilation, effacement (how thin the cervix is), how soft the cervix is, where the cervix is in the vagina, and the station (how far down the baby’s head is).
The results in the group that ate dates had a higher, more favorable Bishop Score, and a higher cervical dilation at admission, and even though the rates of induction were lower, the group that ate dates were more successful with inductions at 41 weeks.
So why are dates effective?
“Date fruit contains 13 vital substances and 5 kinds of vitamins, fatty acids, and sugars.” Dates contain: calcium, zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, A, K, and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin which provide their own unique preventive and healing functions.
“Date fruit also influences estrogen and progesterone hormones, which are effective in preparing the uterus and cervical ripening.”
Dates are high in fiber.
They also contain Tannins and antioxidants which fight infection, and are anti- hemorrhagic.
Date palm fruits possess high nutritional and therapeutic value with significant antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-proliferative properties.
**Dates are also pretty high in sugar, so if you are struggling with yeast, bacterial vaginosis, another infection, or maintaining your blood sugar it may be better to skip the dates.
Dates have a rich and long (8,000 year) history, including Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs depicting the date tree. Dates have been an important ritual aspect in religions across the world. According to the Qur'an, dates have always been considered beneficial to mothers. In Islamic history, it is believed that Maryam (also known as Mary in Christian faith), the mother of Eesa (Jesus in Christian faith) was provided with dates during her labor and after delivery. When Maryam gave birth to the Eesa under a palm tree, she heard a voice telling her, "Do not grieve. Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. Eat and drink, and delight your eyes." These sweet treats hold a deep wisdom and health benefits worth exploring.
Here is a recipe for a delicious way to get some dates in your diet during the last weeks of pregnancy, from Oh, Holy Basil:
Joyful Heart Balls:
This is Rachel’s name for these. This comes from my favorite additions, Sassafras and Maca (save these additions for when you are NOT pregnant)
INGREDIENTS (makes about 48 small balls)
2 cups/12 oz ( about 16 large) medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rose water
¾ teaspoon fine grain pink salt or sea salt
½ cup almond butter (Get that protein boost!)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
½ cup shredded coconut
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon rosehip powder, optional (BONUS for a Vitamin C boost)
⅓ cup goji berries (BONUS for a Vitamin C boost)
cacao powder, shredded coconut or rosehip powder for coating the truffles
** I add other nutrient rich and medicinal herbs to these balls to get an extra kick of whatever I am needing in the moment**
Here are some ideas:
- 1 Tablespoon of powdered Nettles- blood building, immune boosting, nutritive tonic, helps milk supply
- 1 Tablespoon powdered Ashwagandha- antioxidant, immune boosting, calming
- 1 Tablespoon Oat Straw powder- nervine, nutritive tonic, anti spasmodic, sedative
- 1 Tablespoon Burdock Root powder- digestive aid, liver tonic, hormonal balance, immune boosting
- 1 Tablespoon powdered Raspberry Leaf- Uterine tonic,
- 1 Tablespoon powdered Lemon Balm- calming
- 1 T Lavender- calming
- 1 Tablespoon Spirulina- blood building, detoxifying, helps fight candida, lowers blood pressure, energy boost
- 1 Tablespoon Chaga Mushroom powder- immune boost
- 1 Tablespoon Astragalus Root Powder- immune boost, antiviral, adaptogen
*As always, check with your healthcare provider before adding any of these herbs to your diet**
Place the dates, vanilla, rose water and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blend until a chunky paste forms. Add the almond butter and pulse until incorporated.
Add the cacao, coconut, cardamom, rosehip powder, herbs (if using) and goji berries. Pulse until combined.
Roll the truffles into scant tablespoon balls and place on a parchment-lined tray. Chill for ½ hour in the refrigerator.
Remove the truffles from the refrigerator. Fill a small bowl with your desired coating and roll each truffle until well coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.