Some old wives’ tales about pregnancy ring true for good reason – and you’ve probably heard about eating dates to make labor “easier” as one of them. If you haven’t? Then read on. You might be surprised by just how much eating dates in pregnancy might be able to help your labor out!
If you’re in the final weeks of pregnancy and eager to do what you can to meet your little one (safely!) and in the fastest way possible, you may want to consider working some dates into your diet. These tasty little Middle-Eastern-in-origin fruits can do a lot more than satisfy a craving for sweets.
Who is The Labor Mama and Why Am I Here?
Hey friend! I’m Lo – also known around here and social media as The Labor Mama. I’ve spent my nursing career in labor, delivery, and postpartum, have birthed 3 of my own babies, have labored thousands of mamas at the bedside, have taught hundreds of students online, and have even delivered a few speedy little babies with my bare hands (oops).
Here at TLM, I offer online birth classes to empower you the way everyone should be. The education + support I offer gives you experience, evidence, and empathy; you’re getting all of my years of “clinical” RN knowledge, beautifully combined with my real experiences as a mama and a nurse. These are not your hospital birth classes (those won’t do it, I promise), and honestly, birth doesn’t follow a textbook or protocol anyway – you need to know so much more than that.
If you want to connect with me further, head to Instagram. There are hundreds of thousands of us over there learning together daily.
Why eat dates in pregnancy?
There are actually a few different reasons eating dates during pregnancy might be a good idea for you. At a really basic level, dates have a high carbohydrate and vitamin percentages, which means they can be a great energy and nutrition source.
🛑 A note: If you’re a diabetic or have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, make sure you run the use of dates in pregnancy by your nutritionist. Everything I’ve been taught includes that dates are often still ok for those with diabetes because of where they fall on the glycemic index. But you definitely should talk to YOUR care provider who knows YOUR body.
For labor, some also believe that eating dates in pregnancy can also help your body better respond to oxytocin (which, in turn, means “better” contractions and a reduced need for Pitocin) and that they can help speed up the delivery process (according to a study done by the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research). Research also shows that they might be a way to “ripen” your cervix! This means they could help make your cervix softer, stretchier, and more ready to respond to or go into labor!
More on what it means to have a ripe cervix? Check this out ⇢ Cervical Dilation + Effacement: What Do They Mean?
Overall, when you start eating dates around 36 or 37 weeks of pregnancy and eat them for 20+ days, it might lead to:
- Shorter early phase of labor
- Fewer cases of postpartum bleeding,
- Lower rates of induction and augmentation
- “Riper” cervix (better Bishop Score)
- Fewer early rupture of membranes
- Reduced length of pregnancy
Simply put? Dates *might* actually be all the old wives’ tales make them up to be.
* At the end of the day, there is research that suggests there may be some benefits, but we definitely need more (and of higher quality)! It’s an interesting topic and one I’ll def be continuing to pay attention to.
No one knows who first thought of the genius idea to let these little fruits of someone else’s labor help you during yours, but one thing I do know? It’s not the worst thing to try in the hopes of a shorter labor or a body that responds more readily to labor as opposed to using something more “medical” or synthetic like Pitocin to move things along.
Already know that induction is the goal or plan? Great! Check out my Deep Dive: Induction mini course! I’ll get you super informed for all the ways that could look too. Birth is birth no matter how it happens, friend, and I want to help you in your story!
How many dates should you eat?
Currently, there isn’t research that shows if it is better to consume dates consistently through the day or eat (or choke 🙋🏼♀️) them all down at once. I can tell you that the studies have looked at a daily dates consumption of about 70-100 grams, which equals 3-4 of the larger pitted Medjool dates or 7-10ish of the smaller pitted dates. So that’s your target for getting in the “right” (or possibly the most helfpul) amount each day if you’re going to try this.
How do you eat those things?!
Don’t like dates or normally don’t consume them? Same! But there really are so many ways they can be mixed in. Stuff ’em, bake ’em into stuff, or eat ’em plain. The naturally sweet little fruits lend themselves to lots of dessert possibilities, including stuffing them with almond butter and freezing them or making a sticky toffee pudding. The Pinterest-worthy options are endless here, friend! And the good news is that they’re mega healthy if you eat them in moderation (and they could be helping you prep your body better than those other snacks you’re loving right now).
You can find dates at most grocery stores. I like this option from Amazon. They can easily be added to your Amazon Fresh order. Just pay attention to the type you’re getting, so you know about how many to eat each day. You can also pack them in your hospital bag (here’s a hospital bag checklist if you need one); they’re a great snack for labor too.
More good reads:
Dates for labor: you love ’em or you hate ’em
Not everyone is gonna go wild for these snacky options, and that’s okay: the good news is that if you aren’t on specific diet protocols and your care team gives you the go-ahead, eating a handful of dates for a few weeks before labor can’t hurt, and it might help. If dates aren’t your thing, check out some of my free classes and resources below to prep yourself mentally and physically in other ways.
Did you eat them? Will you? Let me know if you’re a fan of dates (or if you tried them in prior pregnancies!) below! xx – Lo
More resources (and freebies!) for you to take a peek at:
- Comprehensive Birth Plan and Birth Priorities templates
- A complete Third Trimester Checklist
- The RN + mama of 3 Ultimate Packing List
- The Labor Mama online birthing classes for every family
A note: This post may include affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission (thank you)! Rest assured, this comes at no additional cost to you. You can read TLM’s full disclosure here.