Can eating Dates lead to a shorter labor?

The advice is SIX dates the last 4 weeks of pregnancy daily.

I remember when Katherine Graves in London during a session with her mentioned this. We all waited eagerly to hear more. I am Kenyan and so have always been surrounded with Muslims in Mombasa where i am from, so Dates has been part of my snack as it is so readily available where i am from, but to hear of this study was even more exciting. So i decided to check through the internet on its mentions, read a few pages and yep! its mentioned in loads of mamahubs, mamafitness and pregnancy health sites. 

Information i have gathered so far claims that; Women who ate dates daily during their ninth month were less likely than non-date eaters to need medication to start labor or to help it keep progressing, a new study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found. The first stage of labor for those women was shorter (510 vs 906 minutes), they were also more dilated upon arrival at the hospital and labored seven hours less. "Dates seem to have a compound that mimics the hormone oxytocin [which causes contractions]," says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman Melinda Johnson, M.s., R.d. 

Other benefits that have since been mentioned in connection to eating dates include:

  • The women who ate dates were dilated an average of 3.5 cm upon admission, compared to 2 cm in those who didn’t
  • 96% of the women who consumed dates went into spontaneous labor and did not have to be induced (compared to only 79% of those who didn’t)
  • Only a small percentage of women who consumed dates needed pitocin (28%) vs those who didn’t consume dates (47%)
  • A smaller percentage of women who consumed dates had their membranes rupture in early labor compared to those who didn’t (17% vs 40%)

 Dates are high in potassium, which helps you maintain the electrolyte balance in your body as your blood volume expands during pregnancy. Dates supply niacin, folate, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, zinc and manganese 

Dates also contain:

  • Calcium- which helps support fetal bone growth
  • Iron - which prevents anaemia and keeps you from becoming overly fatigued
  • Natural sugars (fructose) that easily break down in the body and won’t spike blood sugar levels but will offer high energy, which makes dates during pregnancy or  labor an excellent choice.
  • Fiber – 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 – Support muscular health and helps to alleviate muscle spasms and cramps in pregnancy.
  • Folate  – Getting enough folate will ensure that your baby’s spinal cord matures properly, avoiding neural tube defects.
  • Vitamin K – maintains proper blood clotting and healthy bones.

Of course, you can begin eating dates earlier in your pregnancy if you like. Keep in mind that dates are high in sugar, so if you have blood sugar issues or if you’re worried about group b strep, go easy on them early in pregnancy. 

Dates are not for everyone though. You would either like the taste and texture or not. If you can't eat it as a fruit, there are many other ways to help you consume it. You could try adding Dates in your smoothies for example, or in a cooked dessert. I remember my mum used to cook them in green bananas with coconut milk and cardamom. You wouldn't resist them then!

So Enjoy six dates a day from 36 weeks on. You can start eating them earlier too.

If in doubt, as usual, PLEASE speak to your midwife