One of the bits of information I found when I was researching all things labour and birth in my last pregnancy, was that eating dates may help you have a natural, shorter labour.
A study carried out by researchers at Jordan University was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology investigated the effect of eating dates on labour and delivery outcomes.
The sample size was 69 women who ate 6 dates each day for 4 weeks before their estimated due date compared with a control group of 45 women who ate no dates.
The research team found that women who ate the dates had a significantly higher mean cervical dilatation upon admission compared with the non-date fruit consumers (3.52 cm vs 2.02 cm, p < 0.0005). They also had a significantly higher proportion of intact membranes (83% vs 60%, p = 0.007).
Of the women who ate dates, 96% of those went into spontaneous labour, compared with 79% women in the non date consumers (p = 0.024). Only 28% of the women in the date eating group needed prostin/oxytocin (for inducing/augmenting labour), which was significantly lower than the 47% who needed induction in the control group (p = 0.036). On average too, the 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).
The researchers concluded that date fruit consumption “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 results warrant a randomised controlled trial.”
The sample size was small, and the researchers stated that the research findings indicate the need for a randomised control trial (RCT) as RCT’s are widely recognised as the best study design.
Even if it makes no difference to your labour, there’s no harm in eating them and just 6 a day could make a difference. While they are high in sugar, they have a GI of just 42, because of the high fibre content, and therefore release their sugars at a slow steady pace.* They are super-high in vitamin B6 and provide good amounts of potassium (which is needed for good muscle contraction). They also contribute small amounts of calcium, iron and B vitamins to the diet.
*For this reason too (and also because of the potassium) they make a great snack to have during labour.