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?
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.