How can I increase the chances of natural labor? This is a question we try to answer several times each day in our office at Christie Clinic. There are certainly a variety of “old-wives tales” that may or may not work. But if you want to look at an option that has scientific data to back it up, we need to look at dates. Really, dates? Yes we understand the skepticism but let’s examine the data.
First for those of you who don’t consume dates often, we’ll describe what they are. Dates are the edible fruit of a tree commonly known as the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). Scientists and historians believe that dates were first cultivated in Iraq but can now be grown in a variety of warm locations. Archeologists have found evidence of growing date trees as early as 6000 B.C. Dates provide over 10 vitamins, sugar, and potassium when we consume them. Many people report that dates are a naturally very sweet food that tastes like a cross between a fig and a prune.
Now we’ll walk through the evidence as to how dates can affect pregnancy. A scientific study evaluated 69 women who ate 6 dates per day for the 4 weeks before their due date and compared them to 45 women who didn’t eat dates. There were several differences:
1. The date eaters came to the hospital in labor with a better cervical exam (3.5cm vs 2cm)
2. The date eaters went into labor on their own more often (96% vs 79%)
3. The date eaters needed Pitocin (the medication used to increase contractions to help labor) less often (28% vs 47%)
4. The date eaters had a shorter latent (early) stage of labor (510min vs 906min)
So if you are looking for a natural option to increase your body’s chances of going into labor and you are entering the last month of pregnancy, we certainly feel that dates are a safe and scientifically tested dietary addition.
This article is not intended to provide specific medical advice and is not to be used or relied on for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Rather, this article is provided as an information resource only to help you better understand your health. It does not create any patient-physician relationship. You are urged to consult with a qualified physician for specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment and for answers to your personal medical questions.
O. Al-Kuran, L. Al-Mehaisen, H. Bawadi, S. Beitawi & Z. Amarin (2011) The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 31:1, 29-31, DOI: 10.3109/01443615.2010.522267