I am currently at 37 weeks with my pregnancy and am now consuming 6 dates per day until the baby is delivered. Why am I doing this? I have been reading in several of my pregnancy books and was also advised by my midwife that there have been a few studies that show the efficacy of dates on having an easier labor with less need for drugs and with less blood loss after birth than was shown for mothers who did not eat dates. All of this sounds great to me and I would much rather try something natural like fruit than to take drugs like Cytotec and Pitocin to ripen the cervix and induce labor.
One study aimed to compare the difference between dates and oxytocin in the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage. The study was performed on 62 women who delivered in a hospital. Right after the placenta was delivered, the women in the date group were instructed to eat 50 grams of Deglet Noor dates (roughly about 4-5 dates) and the other group was given 10 units of intramuscular oxytocin. Each woman had a pad placed under her to collect the blood so that it could be weighed every hour for 3 hours. The blood loss of the date group after 1 hour was 104 ml vs the oxytocin group which was 141.6 ml. The difference in blood loss during the 2nd and 3rd hours was not significant but overall the average blood loss in the date group was significantly less than the oxytocin group at 162.5 ml vs 220.7 ml. It was thus determined by the research group that the consumption of dates after delivery decreases bleeding more than intramuscular oxytocin and is a good alternative in normal deliveries.
Three more studies were conducted after this study that set out to investigate whether or not consuming dates the last few weeks before labor would help increase cervical ripening, expedite the onset of labour, and reduce the need for labour interventions such as oxytocin and pitocin. The first study " was carried out on 69 women who consumed six date fruits per day for 4 weeks prior to their estimated date of delivery, compared with 45 women who consumed none. There was no significant difference in gestational age, age and parity between the two groups. The women who consumed date fruit had significantly higher mean cervical dilatation upon admission compared with the non-date fruit consumers (3.52 cm vs 2.02 cm, p < 0.0005), and a significantly higher proportion of intact membranes (83% vs 60%, p = 0.007). Spontaneous labour occurred in 96% of those who consumed dates, compared with 79% women in the non-date fruit consumers (p = 0.024). Use of prostin/oxytocin was significantly lower in women who consumed dates (28%), compared with the non-date fruit consumers (47%) (p = 0.036). The mean latent phase of the first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers (510 min vs 906 min, p = 0.044). It is 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 favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome."
The second study " was performed on 210 women with a singleton pregnancy, cephalic presentation, and gestational age of 37-38 weeks. The subjects were randomly assigned into two groups of 105 women (experimental and control groups). Since the 37th week of gestation, the experimental group consumed date fruit (70 to 75 gr per day) until the onset of labor pain, and the control group received routine care. The mean Bishop score at admission was higher in the experimental group (7.67 ± 2.28), compared to the control group (5.12 ± 2.77) (P <0.001). Mean cervical dilatation at admission was 4.05 ± 1.63 cm in the experimental group and 2.97 ± 4.63 cm in the control group (p <0/05). Also the success rate of labor induction was higher in the experimental group compared to the control group (P= 0.006)."
The third study was conducted on "a total of 154 nulliparous (a woman that has not borne offspring) women with an uncomplicated singleton pregnancy [who] were randomly allocated to either dates-consumer (77) or control group (77). The women in the dates-consumer group had significantly less need for augmentation of labour and longer intervention to delivery interval. There was no significant difference in the onset of spontaneous labour." It was thus concluded that "dates consumption reduces the need for labour augmentation but does not expedite the onset of labour. Dates fruit consumption during late pregnancy has been shown to positively affect the outcome of labour and delivery. In this study, date consumption reduced the need for labour augmentation with oxytocin but did not expedite the onset of labour. Therefore, dates consumption in late pregnancy is a safe supplement to be considered as it reduced the need for labour intervention without any adverse effect on the mother and child."
So, taking all of this research into consideration I am now eating 6-7 small dates (or 3-4 medjool dates) per day until I go into labor. I will also be bringing 5 dates with me for after the placenta is delivered to decrease blood loss. From what I could gather in these studies, the reason for dates being so helpful to laboring women is because they are so rich in vitamins and minerals (especially iron). I'll let you know how my labor goes and if I think the dates had any effect on it. I'm curious if any of you have tried this and noticed a difference or not. Leave a comment and let me know!