When I was pregnant with Sunshine, my husband and I read a book that compared labour to a marathon. The author asked, “If you knew you were going to run a marathon in 9 months, wouldn’t you prepare for it?” He was talking primarily about physical preparation for labour, but his advice has stuck with me. With my last pregnancy, I found three natural ways to prepare your body for labour.
Red raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil and dates are all said to strengthen a women’s uterus. Two of these I’ve used sporadically with previous pregnancies; one I heard about only with this pregnancy. Together, I believe all three helped me have my best labour and recovery.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
My midwives recommended this during my pregnancy with Sunshine. Raspberry leaf tea has been used medicinally for thousands of years as a uterine tonic. It contains several good nutrients like Vitamin B complex, calcium, iron, and magnesium. This herb is also said to lower blood sugar and blood pressure, improve your immune system and circulation, and ease morning sickness.
I found red raspberry leaf tea at my local health food store. Check boxes carefully before buying the tea; not all teas labelled “raspberry tea” are actually red raspberry leaf tea. Some are just raspberry flavored. I drank a cup a day for most of my pregnancy, and increased it to two or three cups for the last couple of weeks before my due date.
BellyBelly.com.au notes that “Studies have shown that women who take red raspberry leaf have a reduced incidence of birth interventions. Research has also found that women who drink red raspberry leaf tea regularly towards the end of their pregnancies had shorter second stages of labour than those who don’t.” Like many herbal products, there aren’t a lot of studies done yet.
Raspberry leaf tea can also increase the strength or frequency of Braxton-Hicks contractions. If you have any complications during pregnancy or past history of problems during labour, you may want to avoid it.
Evening Primrose Oil
I believe I took evening primrose oil towards the end of my pregnancy with Jade (especially once my due date passed). With this pregnancy, a friend of mine mentioned she takes it from the first trimester onwards to help with emotional balance. When I asked my midwives about it, they approved it, in small doses for the first two trimesters and then increasing my dose after 36 weeks to prepare for labour.
Like raspberry leaf tea, there are few studies available on evening primrose oil and conflicting information found online. It is said to act as a prostaglandin that helps ripen the cervix before labour. It is available in capsule form at most health food stores; I found it here in Vancouver at Shopper’s Drug Mart. It is a source of essential fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. I took it only orally, though it can also be used as a massage oil.
Several months ago, I saw a photo on Pinterest claiming that dates helped with labour. Right away, I was intrigued. I like dates and, unlike the above options, they’re a common food that surely couldn’t have any concerns or side effects associated with them.
Looking into, I found there’s even a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology proving dates advantages for pregnancy. Dates seem to mimic the hormone oxytocin and made it less likely for women to require medication to start labour or help it progress. Dates are also a good source of fiber, iron, folate, Vitamin K, magnesium and potassium.
The recommendation is to eat six dates daily during your pregnancy, but especially during the last trimester. Dates are available in several forms in your grocery store—fresh, dried, etc—and can be easily used in baking or cooking. Add them to your cereal in the morning, or to a bowl of yogurt and fruit (my mom often did this!), or have them for an afternoon snack when you need an energy boost.
Did these natural ways to prepare your body for labour work?
I can’t remember exactly when I started taking each of these, but by my third trimester I was having each one daily. Did it help? I think so:
- Pearl was born exactly on her due date (even though Lily and Jade were born a week and two weeks after their due dates)
- Pearl’s labour was roughly two hours shorter than any of my other labours (eight hours instead of ten hours)
- My postpartum bleeding and cramping seemed to be less after this birth than my last births (despite friends assuring me that afterbirth pains get worse with each baby)
I do recommend talking to your doctor or midwife before taking supplements or changing your diet during your pregnancy. My midwives recommended or were on board with these, but doctors may be a bit more dubious. Do your research (as I did) and make a decision based on your own intuition and circumstances. If you have any complications or concerns during your pregnancy, you may want to avoid the tea and supplements.
Have you looked for natural ways to prepare your body for labour? Have you tried raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil, or dates during pregnancy?
Are you closer to your due date and need more tips? Marissa from Just Simply Mom shares a few other natural ways to induce labour.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor; information provided here is based only upon my own research and experience. I strongly recommend that you do your own research and speak to your care provider about what you take during your pregnancy.
Love this post? It’s one of 38 chapters in Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You Through All Four Trimesters, a book about pregnancy, birth, and baby’s first three months. Written with my good friend Anna Eastland (mom of 8 kids!), Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is an honest, practical look at pregnancy and beyond. We share what’s worked for us in growing, birthing and loving thirteen babies.
Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is available on Amazon.
Thank you for your wonderful articles, and God bless you! I wanted to share an amazing herbal birth aid I found. Keep in mind that I am extremely cautious and only take anything after extensive research. It is Dr. Christopher’s Birth Prep. You take it starting 6 weeks before your expected birth. I researched every ingredient, and I was satisfied that each one had a long history of being used for this purpose (up until the 1950s when everything traditional was thrown out the window.) I used it for the birth of our second child. Results: the birth of our first child took over 14 hours. For our second child, after taking this – it literally took approximately an hour and a half. Maybe part of it was chance. Also – maybe another part of it was that i went 4 or 5 times to a specialist in prenatal chiropractic – it makes a HUGE difference in ease and speed of birth, if the back and body is aligned. Whether it was the specialist in prenatal chiropractic, or Dr. Christopher’s Birth Prep – that is a huge difference. I think it is worthwhile to do both if you are interested in an easier birth.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Both of my children were born without painkillers during childbirth. This is because I researched it, and (1) they are all derivatives of cocaine, and have a significant impact on the baby’s alertness in the first 1-3 months of life (eeew! Even the drug companies warning says that for the first few months, expect the baby to be dizzy/listless/unable to lift its arms) and studies show that it has an impact on drug addiction in later life. I didn’t find any studies on INTELLIGENCE, but to me, it stands to reason, that if the baby has this at the time of birth, during a KEY important time of brain development, that it will have an impact on brain development. The doses the baby gets of the birth painkiller are approximately 8x the dose that the mother gets – again, remember, all of these birth painkillers are cocaine derivatives.
(2) The painkiller stops labor and contractions, so in the end, with the painkiller, the result is that it is more painful overall. they can’t fully numb the mother, because labor would stop. They have to stop the painkiller at many times, and also alternate the painkiller with (I forgot the name- picoden or something) – essentially, a synthetic hormone – to get labor started again. but what that does is make contractions far sharper and more painful. so the net effect of all of these drugs on the mother is that net-net, the birth is more painful. And then think about the baby with 8x the dosage of cocaine derivative in its brain – lasting a few months – during the most important time in brain development.
So we got midwives and a written birth plan. During the birth of our first, there were moments that I asked for painkillers, but the midwives knew us well from our monthly visits, and they know that when people have a birth plan and a reason for it, they stick to it. So in the few moments that I asked for painkiller, they helped me be strong, for the health and intelligence of my child for the rest of its life. The next day, you completely forget any pain, but the health and intelligence and mind of your child lasts forever.
For our second child, I did want to find a way to make it less painful. For our first, we did the Bradley method. It probably would have worked, except that my contractions did not start out gentle every 30 minutes – they started out, from the first moment, at full force, and 4 minutes apart, and somehow I wasn’t able to get accustomed to it. So for our second, we did hypnobirthing. It was truly fantastic, and far better. I recommend it 100%. I am a very traditional Catholic, and there is nothing weird about hypnobirthing, it is medical management of pain through focus, that you are trained on, in a methodology, for months. I am completely sure of that. (To put it in context, I am aware that Catholics should not do yoga, and, we do not have a television – so I am very traditional.) Hypnobirthing is a sound medical practice, like an herbal remedy or homeopathy, far more effective than big pharma.
And it is about 10x more effective than pharma – the contractions felt like strong sensations, but not pain. There are amazing hypnobirthing videos from England on youtube – watch tons of them – they are amazing. They have local classes all over the U.S. Huge difference, night and day!
Ok yeah I was taking 1000mg and now I upped it to the same 1500/2000mg too. Well that’s what my midwife suggested as well.
So how much evening primrose did YOU end up taking when you hit 36weeks. You said you “upped” the amount later in your pregnancy.
Jessika – I think I was taking 3 or 4 capsules (so 1500-2000 mg), which is what my midwives recommended. I did have my midwives to give me guidance about how much to take and when to increase my dosage. Most doctors probably won’t be familiar with evening primrose oil. If in doubt, take less. And remember I’m not a doctor – I’m just sharing what worked for me. 🙂 I hope it helps you too! 🙂
I just heard from a fellow-pregnant mommy about dates and was wondering what the reasoning behind them was! Thanks for the tip! Due in 4 weeks over here, but I’m kind of at the point where my body is ready for baby to come, but my mind is worried we’re not ready prepping! So I can’t decide whether I want to give these tips a try yet haha. Maybe I’ll wait until some more of my nesting prep is satisfied. 😉
There’s actually a lot of research behind the dates if you look it up. This surprised me, because it’s really hard to find any good research on most homeopathic remedies (like the red raspberry leaf tea or evening primrose oil). However, the dates are backed up by medical journals and mainstream science, so go for it. 🙂 They are healthy anyway if you like them! 🙂
I have heard about dates but had not yet heard anyone who had actually try it!! That’s amazing. I look forward to doing more things like that if we are able to have another baby!