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Dates for easier labor

Can Eating Dates Make Labor Easier?

Dates Make Labor Easier? Who Knew?

AKA- Can eating dates make labor easier or will they just jack up my blood sugar and make my baby and me gain excess weight?

Every single pregnant woman on the planet has probably had thoughts about how to have a shorter, easier labor. Recently, info has been circulating again regarding the study saying that dates make labor easier.

Here’s the scoop.

This promising info is based on a small study that was done in 2008 with 114 women divided into two groups. One group ate 6 dates a day in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy and the other didn’t. They were similar in all other major aspects. The outcomes were significant. Of those who consumed the dates the study found:

  • They had significantly more dilation progress when admitted in labor than the non-consuming women.

  • Spontaneous labor occurred in 96% of the date eaters vs. only 79% in the non date eaters.

  • Pitocin induction rates were significantly lower in the date eaters (28%) vs. the non date eaters (47%).

  • The first stage of labor on average was only 8.5 hours in the date eaters vs. 15 hours on average in the non date eaters.

So those stats look really good, right?

I always ask my clients to weigh interventions (yes...eating dates for a perceived benefit can be called an intervention:) on a risks vs. benefits scale. So what could be the downside to all this optimism?


We know that women who consume lots of simple carbs and sugar in pregnancy grow bigger babies which can contribute to all kinds of bad things like...

  • Carb-babies grow big and don’t fit through the pelvis as well.

  • Sugar addicted babies sometimes have difficulty regulating their own insulin after birth causing the need for a bunch of heel sticks to check then correct their glucose levels.

  • Then there’s the dreaded Gestational Diabetes and all of the interventions and general ‘messing with” that go with that high risk diagnosis.

So what about the sugar content in dates?

If you look at the nutritional profile of a date, they look more like a sugar bomb than a healthy snack so..

Let me start with a little blurb about nutrition...specifically protein and how it affects your glucose levels. Growing the right size baby for your body is one of the best things you can do to keep your birth normal.

For the purpose of this short blog post, I’m going to really simplify the way your body processes its 3 main fuel sources, Protein, Carbs and Fat.

In a nutshell, you ALWAYS need protein. Eat some at every meal and every snack. Protein is the primary building block you need to grow your baby. Proteins are things like meats, cheeses, beans, quinoa, eggs, fish, nuts and nut butters, hummus, etc.

However, you need other macro-nutrients as well which are carbs and fats.

I’ll touch on fat next. The main point I want to get across regarding fats is that “good fats” do NOT make you fat! They grow your baby’s brain and are a clean-burning fuel source for your body. They help you feel full longer and offer all kinds of benefits to your heart, brain, mood, joints and skin.

Good fats are things such as grass fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, walnuts, small fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, anchovies, (wild caught) salmon, and herring, just to name a few. Here’s some great info on fats.

And then there’s the carb lineup.

Carbs get such a bad rap that it’s important to separate out the good from the bad.

Good (whole) carbs that you want to be eating are things like veggies, oatmeal, ezekiel breads, sweet potatoes, quinoa and other whole grains. OH and DATES!

The risk of dates raising your blood sugar is significantly reduced due to their high fiber content. Fiber slows absorption of the date sugar and protects your blood glucose levels much like protein consumption helps protect your blood sugar levels. The effects of daily date consumption and its effects on blood sugar levels is referenced in another small study.

To reduce that risk even further, just eat a bit of protein with your dates to slow their sugar release into your bloodstream.

Alternately, bad carbs...the ones that will help you grow an 11 pound baby..ugh...are things like fast foods, sugary foods, white breads, white rice, white potatoes and fries, anything with white flour in it, not-so-healthy breakfast cereals, bars and bagels and the like.

Don’t do it!! Just say no! Seriously, you’ll thank me after your birth.

The simple key to growing the right size baby for your body is eating whole foods 95% of the time and combining them correctly.

Strive for one of these 2 options at each meal.

1. Eat protein at every meal and snack (I know, now I’m nagging), coupled with a whole carb.

Almonds and dates anyone? How about a smoothie?

Enter your text here...


2. Eat protein at every meal and snack coupled with a good fat.

This sounds like a juicy steak and pile of broccoli with cheese or grass fed butter!

Combinations to avoid

Unless you are purposely trying to put on extra weight, combining fats and carbs together in the same meal is a bad idea.

They collide!

Carbs and fats are basically 2 different sources of energy and when eaten together, one will be used and one will be stored. Your body can’t burn both at the same time and most women don’t need extra pregnancy weight.

That said, for the rare woman who is having a hard time gaining weight, the collision of fats and carbs, coupled with good protein, is exactly her solution and can help her gain enough weight to support a healthy pregnancy.

You can find much more detail on healthy pregnancy eating at, including a lot of really yummy recipes for clean eating.

So back to dates…

dates make labor easier

Other Health Benefits of Dates

Aside from the "dates make labor easier" camp, there are so many resources out there talking about the many benefits of eating dates that I won’t try to reinvent that wheel. Dates will feed you and your baby some amazing nutrients! Here are the cliff notes according to the website Organic Facts.

“Dates are a good source of various vitamins and minerals. It’s a good source of energy, sugar and fiber. Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc are found in dates. It also contains vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K.”

Here are a few more posts talking about all the benefits of dates.

Just a few more (VERY IMPORTANT) things that you can do to have a strong pregnancy and easier labor and birth.

As a midwife in SC, I’ve seen some amazingly strong women grow incredibly healthy babies by just doing a few things that I’ve listed below.

I strongly encourage you to take control over the things that are within your control.

These basic tenets of the Midwife Model of Care are the foundation that will support you and help keep all your options open.

  • Excellent Nutrition

  • Whole Food-based Vitamins

  • Exercise Regularly (walks 3-4 times a week is perfect)

  • Take a Great Childbirth Education Series

  • Know and Practice “Optimal Fetal Positioning

  • Hire a Midwife or Doula

And if the study holds true... eat up because dates make labor easier!

When you’ve been a great steward of your pregnancy, the reward of experiencing your own strength in giving birth is invigorating!!

Girl power!!!

Love and birth joy! Lisa

How about you? Did you eat 6 dates a day in late pregnancy? Do you think that dates make labor easier?

Here are a few “keepin’ it real” anecdotal responses I received on my facebook groups. Be sure to add yours below.

>I did and had a great labor, pushed about 30 perineum tearing. Sarah M.

>Just had my third, didn't eat any for the first or second pregnancies. Third I at 6 every day. Water broke naturally (not with the first two) and I had a kick ass labor! Amy G.

>I did. I ate them like mad because they were delicious with my last.. even though I started eating them because of their supposed labor help. My dilation was never checked. My water broke as he was crowning. Labor was right around 6 hours, I suppose. I didn't feel a need to call and let my midwife know it was the real deal until about 3 hours into it. Transition and pushing were about 2-5 minutes (but that was pretty much the case with all three of my homebirths). Tia W.

>I did with first baby. He still went to 41 weeks. I was 4cm from 37 weeks til the morning I was induced. Labor was 4 hours, but all of my labors have been 4-5 hours with or without having eaten dates. Sarah R.

>I did! Labor 8 hrs, kind of an arom at around 5 hrs? I think. I'm not sure how dilated I was when midwife arrived, but I had been 5 cm. So when she checked me I said don't tell me unless it's greater, and she said nothing, so I assume 5cm. Nancy A.

>(midwife) never checked me to say how much I was dilated, but my water broke at 9:22pm and she came out at 1:22pm. First baby. And I believe (midwife) showed up around 2ish and I was already in active labor. Joanna B.

>I did. Still went to 42 weeks, still had 18 hours of unproductive labor that ended with a 3rd section :-/ not the story you're looking for, but there's always an exception to every rule. Kristyn L.

>I did! I ate 4-6 dates/day during the last trimester of my third pregnancy. My first two labors were pretty long but my third labor had some prodromal stuff and then maybe 60 minutes of active labor, so....antidotal? Lol. Brittany H.

>I did! I ate 6ish a day during the last few months. I had an awesome natural birth on our due date. But i was also drinking raspberry leaf tea, taking evening primrose and I saw an acupuncturist the week prior. Kristen B.


About the Author Lisa Byrd, SC Midwife & Natural Wellness Educator

Lisa Byrd LM, CPM Lisa is a healthy mama/baby crusader and a "crunchy midwife" in Columbia, SC with a passion to help families create a safe, non-toxic home for their families. She's is a mom to 5 amazing adults and "Gigi" to 5 beautiful granddaughters and 1 incredible grandson. She lives and works in Columbia, SC where her home birth practice thrives. Lisa travels to Charleston, SC, Greenville, SC and Charlotte, NC to teach classes on reducing toxicity in the home. When she's not catching babies, creating clean, fun concoctions in her lab (ehem, kitchen) or teaching natural health care classes, you'll find her playing in her metal arts studio or soaking up negative, life giving ions at the beach. "We are all on a health journey. The key is keeping it simple and finding joy on your journey!"

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1 comment
Ice says December 27, 2016

Whoever wrote this, you know how to make a good artcile.

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