Studies have shown that eating dates in later pregnancy can have many benefits. In this article we’ll talk about the benefits of eating dates, how to best consume them (so you aren’t dreading it every day) and what studies have shown about dates putting you into labor?
But first off, how do I know so much about labor? Hi, I’m Hilary — the Pregnancy Nurse®. I’ve been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of labor and delivery experience. I’ve talked to lots of moms about date consumption during pregnancy, and I think I can help you be realistic about what to expect out of them, so let’s get started!
When Should I Start Eating Dates During Pregnancy?
Studies have shown that eating dates starting at 36 weeks has some benefits towards going into labor (don’t worry, we’ll talk more about that).
But, you don’t have to just start at 36 weeks. Dates are high in calories and nutrients that your body needs during pregnancy, and they may be able to prevent gestational diabetes and regulate blood sugar levels. Additionally, eating dates during pregnancy has been linked to a host of benefits for both mom and baby, including a shorter labor and easier delivery.
Of course, as with any food, it is important to incorporate date fruit into a balanced pregnancy diet and eat them in moderation. Many experts recommend eating 6-8 dates per day during the third trimester, but you can start eating dates earlier if you want to reap their benefits throughout your pregnancy. So, go ahead and enjoy this delicious and healthy snack!
BTW if you’re close to the end of your pregnancy you’re ripe and ready to take a prenatal class too! They have actually been shown to decrease caesarean rates (which dates don’t do).
What are the Benefits of Eating Dates During Pregnancy?
Eating dates during pregnancy can provide many benefits to expecting mothers.
Dates are high in:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamins B-1 (Thaimine) and B-2 Riboflavin
- and Niacin
- And Vitamin A
- Potassium (great for your muscles and blood pressure)
- They are also full of antioxidants including carotenoids and phenolics
- They are also REALLY high in fiber that can help promote a healthy digestive track.
I actually mention dates in my post on how to avoid pooping in labor.
More on dates can be found here.
The studies show that dates do reduce your need for labor augmentation but did not expedite the onset of labor. Both studies showed no adverse effects of eating dates.
Can Dates Induce Labor?
There is no real scientific evidence that dates can induce labor — but this study showed some benefits:
- Women who consumed dates had a higher cervical dilation (their cervix was more open) upon admission compared to those who had not eaten dates.
- Spontaneous labor occurred in 96% of patients who ate dates vs 79% who did not.
- The use of induction agents was lower in those who consumed date (just 28%) vs 47% of those who did not consume dates.
- The early stage of labor was shorter in women who consumed dates vs those who did not.
This study recommended that you start eating dates in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy to reduce your need to for induction or augmentation of labor. That being said there was no reference to dates putting people into labor.
This study actually showed it decreased the amount of time in the active phase of labor (it did not show any changes to early labor or the pushing stage of labor). It did show an improvement on the bishop’s score (I share more about the bishop score in my post on 36 week cervical exams) but did now show any differences in the rate of cesarean section.
This study showed decreased lengths in the second and third stages of labor.
So, while there is some variance in when dates are effective in the labor process, they all showed shortened labors, and less need for augmentation with pitocin or induction of labor.
Why Would Dates Help Labor?
They think that date fruit act on the prostaglandin receptors, which may increase the uterus’s response to oxytocin.
Are Dates Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?
In most cases it would be safe to eat dates during pregnancy. Two areas to watch:
Any allergies to dates obviously mean that dates should be avoided.
If you have gestational diabetes please do talk with your dietician or nutrition counselor about if they are safe for you to eat (as they do have a high amount of carbohydrates, but may be safe when also eaten with protein).
What Kind of Dates Should I Eat?
When it comes to choosing what type of dates you should eat, there are plenty of options available. Dates are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals and can be a great addition to your diet.
Some varieties of dates that you can eat include Medjool, Deglet Noor, and Barhi dates. These varieties are known for their sweet taste, chewy texture, and nutritional benefits. However, it is important to avoid dates that have added sugars or are coated with preservatives.
How Many Dates Should I Eat?
In the study that I could find it showed that they asked participants to eat six dates/day in the 4 weeks leading up to their due date.
How to Eat Dates During Pregnancy?
Eating dates during pregnancy is considered to be highly nutritious and beneficial for both the mother and the growing baby. Dates can be eaten in different ways such as fresh, dried, or pitted.
One easy way to incorporate dates into the diet is by adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt.
Additionally, dates can also be used as a natural sweetener in baked goods or sauces (you just have to be careful about the carbohydrates in these types of goodies, especially if you have diabetes).
While dates can be eaten alone, that may get to be kind of boring during pregnancy. A few ways I’ve seen dates stuffed:
- Peanut butter
- Goat Cheese (I’ve also had them stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon)
Both of those are great as they will add protein to your date snack as well!
Have other ways you love dates stuffed? — tell me in the comments!
I did find this article from the LA times with lots of tasty date ideas to get them into your diet. It looks like their natural sugars can be used in a variety of ways!
In general I’d recommend consuming dates in late pregnancy (although throughout your entire pregnancy is also fine). Personally, I’d try to get down the six dates a day as recommended in the study starting at about 36 weeks. If you’re past 36 weeks, no reason not to start now. Although the studies are mixed on if women who ate dates had shorter first stage or second stage of labour it did seem to show that date fruit consumption decreased labor time overall.
BUT don’t forget to get your BRAIN feeling more relaxed about labor and delivery as well. Come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples where we get you prepared for labor in just a few hours. AND feel free to eat some of your favorite date snacks while you watch it!
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing (although if you’re close to 36 weeks, NOW is the time to get started), check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.