If you’re pregnant or have recently given birth you may have heard about eating dates during the last four weeks of your pregnancy to help with labor. Being in the medical field, I was very interested in this during my pregnancy with Hunter given the research article written by Al-Kuran et. al. published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The research showed that women who ate six dates every day for the last four weeks of their pregnancy were more likely to go into labor naturally, with their cervix more dilated, their bags of water intact, and have a shorter first stage of labor. Although a randomized, controlled trial is needed, the findings seemed really promising, so I decided to give it a try.
I had actually never eaten a date until this time and, unfortunately, I didn’t end up liking them very much. Which was disappointing because six dates every day for four weeks is a lot when you don’t like something (and of course my husband loves them…why couldn’t him eating them also help out my labor?! I also told him I was writing this blog post and he said “People are going to think you’re crazy–this girl can’t handle eating a few dates?! They’re like candy!”). I know you can bake dates into things and apparently that is tasty, but I decided that wouldn’t really help me meet my daily quota. I mean how much date bread would you need to eat to eat six dates a day? Probably like an entire loaf–not realistic. But I was literally gagging if I ate the dates plain. So I ended up cutting each date in half lengthwise and spreading some sort of filling in them to help mask it. So in the AM I would eat two dates with cream cheese, lunch I would have two dates with peanut butter, and after dinner I would eat my last two dates with Nutella. This was successful in at least getting the dates in me although I was pretty sick of it by the end!
Now I have a lot of mixed feelings about my personal results. Obviously there is no guarantee that dates will work for everyone or that dates are actually what caused or didn’t cause certain aspects of my labor to happen, but of all the things the research claimed that eating dates could help in I was most interested in going into labor naturally. I did not want to be induced. My mom had long natural labors with me and my siblings, so I was preparing myself for something similar. I wasn’t focused on how dilated I was, if my water broke or not, or how long my early stage of labor was, I just did not want to be induced. So of course what happened? I was induced at 41 weeks + 1 day. (Also I will say I had some incredibly emotional circumstances right before Hunter’s due date that I definitely think affected my labor and need for induction. I would love to share Hunter’s birth story some day, but I’m not quite emotionally ready yet.) However, I did seem to get all the other benefits of eating dates. After starting to eat dates I was checked for dilation/effacement in the OB office periodically and I steadily progressed at each visit and I was already 3 cm and 100% effaced when I went in for induction. I was started on pitocin and progressed very well. I wish I had paid a little closer attention to the clock just for fun, but I know we checked in for induction at 7 AM (don’t remember how long it took me to actually get my room, my IV, the pitocin started, etc. so my true “labor” didn’t even start to a little later) and Hunter was born at 7:10 PM. So from what I’m told I had a fast labor for a first time mom–again I’d like to think the fact that I was already so far dilated/effaced and my labor went relatively quickly/smoothly that I could contribute some of that to the beneficial effects from the dates. If only I wasn’t induced I think I would be singing dates praises!
Sam and I are hoping to have more children in the future, so the question now is will I eat dates again? I don’t think so (unless any of you have some tasty recipes/ideas of how to eat dates). I really struggled to physically eat the dates and I’m just not convinced that it will make enough of a difference. Plus next time I will be a second time mom and hopefully my body will be that much more prepared anyway…I hope! I do encourage everyone to do their research though. And if I liked dates I would absolutely not hesitate because there does not seem to be any downsides! The original research is from 2011, so I would also be super interested to see if any randomized, controlled trials come out on the subject…could make me rethink my decision!
**Would love to hear if anyone else has tried eating dates for labor purposes and what your results were and feel free to share any better ways to eat them in the comments!**