What Is the Top Food for Labor and Delivery?

Can a common fruit speed up labor by hours, requiring less induced labor and postpartum bleeding?

The readiness of the cervix, the opening to the birth canal, can be greatly improved by having women consume about six dates per day for a few weeks prior to giving birth, according to a randomized, controlled trial involving hundreds of pregnant women. The cervix can also be prepared with medication and surgery; oxytocin, commonly known by the brand name Pitocin, is the most often utilized agent in the globe. Although it works, there are a number of negative side effects that can have an impact on both the mother and the child. Wish there was a quick, easy, side-effect-free fix. Well, dates might be appropriate.

As I discuss in my video Best Food for Labor and Delivery, in the study, the use of oxytocin for inducing labor in the date group decreased to less than half that of the control group. What’s more, the few women on dates who were induced had more successful deliveries. In an earlier study, prior date consumption appeared to shorten labor by more than six hours, and the researchers speculated that dates themselves may have oxytocin-like effects. So, how about a head-to-head trial, comparing the efficacy of dates versus oxytocin in the management of postpartum bleeding?

“Postpartum hemorrhage,” excessive blood loss after birth, “is one of the major complications of pregnancy” and the leading cause of maternal mortality. As the placenta peels off, the uterus is supposed to contract to staunch the bleeding. If it doesn’t, if the uterus doesn’t have sufficient muscle tone, an injection of oxytocin may help squeeze off the blood loss. Like all drugs, though, it can have side effects, such as causing a dangerous drop in blood pressure. There are also various devices that can be inserted to apply pressure to staunch the bleeding, and, if worse comes to worst, surgery could be necessary.

Why not try fruit first? Dates are readily available, inexpensive, and side-effect free—but do they work? Researchers set up a randomized clinical trial to find out. Immediately after their placenta came out, women were given a one-time dose of either five or so dates or an intramuscular shot of oxytocin. Then, the researchers collected all of the blood to determine which worked better.

Overall, three hours after delivery, the average blood loss in the date group was significantly less than in the oxytocin group, by about a quarter cup. At 2:24 in my video, you can see a chart showing that the date group was primarily in the lowest category with less than two-thirds of a cup of blood loss, whereas the oxytocin group mostly lost about a cup or even more. The researchers concluded that “use of oral dates after delivery decreases bleeding more than intramuscular oxytocin and it’s a good alternative in normal delivery.” (Oral dates? How else would you use them?)

If dates have oxytocin-like effects to contract the uterus, thereby shortening labor by helping to “induce earlier uterine contractions,” might date consumption increase the risk of premature labor?

A study examined the impact of date fruit eating on gestational duration. Women were randomly assigned to consume seven dates per day or none at all beginning at about 38 weeks. Additionally, scientists discovered that consuming dates had no impact on delivery dates. However, eating the fruit considerably decreased the requirement for drug-induced induction of labor: Less than 40% of the women in the group eating just seven dates per day for a week experienced induction compared to 50% of the women in the non-date group. Labor induction is a severe matter. The researchers found that dates consumption in late pregnancy is a safe supplement to be taken into consideration as it reduced the need for labor intervention without any negative effects on the mother and child. However, they cautioned that it “can give rise to increased complications, such as bleeding, caesarean section, uterine hyper stimulation and rupture” and that, aside from the complications, women who are induced “tend to be less satisfied with their birth experience.”

If only there was a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. Because the women in the date group were aware that they were consuming dates, which could have had a placebo effect, we need more than just a randomized experiment. The only double-blind study on dates and delivery that I could find was in Arabic. However, I read the study’s English abstract, which details how date syrup or a placebo was administered to women who were beginning to experience active labor. That is fantastic! Making a placebo date is challenging, but you might produce a syrup-like substitute using molasses or another comparable liquid. The researchers employed honey date syrup, derived from the honey date, in their investigation (not honey and dates). The honey date is a tender, syrup-making type of the fruit that melts in your tongue. They discovered that the date group experienced an increase in typical labor progression of almost 98 percent, as opposed to less than 70 percent in the placebo and control groups. Additionally, the time spent in labor was about two hours shorter for the date group. Therefore, perhaps you could give dates their due on your due date.

This kind of subject interests me so much. Consider all the advantages of whole foods that have yet to be discovered and are awaiting research. Perhaps we could start crowd-funding science so that it isn’t just profitable pharmaceuticals and technologies that receive research funding. But how much more study are we really going to need before we start eating better?

You may be interested in my video on cervical ripening. Check out Best Food for Late Pregnancy. And, for more on dates, see Flashback Friday: Benefit of Dates for Colon Health.