Date Fruit & Pregnancy
There is growing discussion about whether dates benefit pregnant women in labor and childbirth. Is this just another health fad, or is there some truth to this trend? Do dates truly help increase contractions and shorten labor? It would seem so. According to the Arabians, dates in pregnancy is part of an ancient remedy that goes back in history for thousands of years. Dates and date products have long held a place of honor in Arab tradition and were used in both women’s diets and in their home remedies. A symbol related to fertility and childbirth, they were said to have medicinal properties, specifically helping women in labor and more generally attributing to their health and welfare. This reputation (1) partially came about by the Qur’an, where God is depicted giving Mary dates when she is in the throes of childbirth, and was promoted further by Muhammad’s saying “Whoever takes every morning seven dates of Ajwa, he will neither be harmed by poison nor sorcery on that day”. While it would be foolish to test this saying, it helps to illustrate the benefits of dates which are still being manifested today in the modern world.
Dates In Pregnancy: An Ancient Remedy
Due to the dates’ high nutrition and calories, Bedouins could survive on a diet of dates and camel milk for an extended amount of time. Dates heighten energy levels, and until the advance of modern foods, they were a staple of the Arabian diet. Children ate the fruit as sweets, desserts were made with them, or they were paired with cardamom coffee. While Arab women still use dates in multiple health remedies to cure parasites, build bones, relieve coughs, and strengthen the liver, dates also play a prominent role in their pregnancies and childbirth. This is a practice that, while the exact medical details warrant further testing, does seem to be beneficial and is favorably received by the rest of the world. (2)
Dates are Nutrient-Dense
Even without the benefits specific to childbirth, dates are beneficial to pregnant women for their nutrients and vitamins. They bolster energy and keep the digestive system running correctly, and are a good, natural substitute for less healthy sugars. Because dates are rich in potassium, they also relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. General benefits aside, dates help dilate the cervix and strengthen, (3) stretch, and contract the uterine muscles of the mother, which promotes quicker labor and deliveries. (4)
While the science behind these facts is still uncertain, dates appear to have some kind of compounds that bind to oxytocin receptors and mimicking oxytocin, causes the pregnant woman to go into labor. Women who eat a steady diet of dates for the last four weeks of their pregnancy tend to be in active labor four hours less than if they did not eat dates. Dates also benefit the unborn child, providing iron, vitamin K, (5) and folate, which in turn helps the baby to develop strong bones, muscles, and nerves, and reduces the possibility of defects. After giving birth, Arabian women will eat dates to prevent postpartum bleeding (6) and to help dispel the placenta. They also include dates in breakfast, served with seeds or wheat gruel to invigorate the new mother and help with lactation. (7)
When is the Best Time to Eat Dates During Pregnancy?
Three or four weeks before the due date is a good time to start consistently eating dates, but keep in mind that the Arabians often have dates daily, and consumption of dates is not limited to the third trimester. Eating dates in the early stages of pregnancy onwards does not affect one negatively, but rather positively, as stated above. In short, pregnant women can eat dates whenever they want during their pregnancy. Dried dates are higher in calories than fresh, both are easy to over eat and a moderate, steady diet will have better, healthier effects than random splurges. Some good times in general to eat dates are, (8) but not limited to: at breakfast, for an afternoon snack, before exercise, or as a bedtime snack. While dates are high in sugar, they give a carb that releases slowly and gives a steady flow of energy which can last during a whole workout. What makes them optimal for a snack before bed is that they are full of fiber, (9) which takes longer to digest and has a better chance of lasting the night. (10)
Best Variety of Dates for Pregnancy
Any variety of date will aid pregnant women in labor and childbirth and there are many varieties to choose from, including but not limited to Medjool, Deglet Noor, Barhi, Khalas, and Zahidi dates. (11) Some recipes Arabian women use in preparation for childbirth are a combination of dates coupled with cinnamon, cloves, cumin, or anise tea. Other recipes stuff dates with nuts or cheese, dip dates in cream, use date syrup in deserts, or substitute sugar for dates. And as dates are added to our modern diets they (12) become even more versatile, bringing a touch of Arabian tradition and household remedies into the West as we use them in cereal, barbecue sauce, ice cream, and a thousand other recipes. This tradition is not merely based on old wives’ tales or prophetic lore, but proven through medical facts that the Arabians picked up on years before they even became topics of discussion in the West. Scientists are probing further into dates’ benefits on pregnancies and much of the scientific details remain to be explained, but what they are discovering aligns with what Arab women already know and implement in their own pregnancies: eating dates shortens labor, increases contractions, and gives new found energy to pregnant women and new mothers.
We currently sell 2 varieties of whole dates: Barhi and Khalas dates. Barhi dates are sweet like caramels harvested straight from the Coachella valley in California. Rich in brown sugar flavor, Khalas dates are the perfect snacking date. We also sell pureed and pitted dates (aka date paste) which is made from Zahidi dates. Date paste is perfect for adding to recipes as it acts as a binder when making muffins or deliciously moist breads. Whatever your favorite date variety may be, we hope you'll keep dates in mind for anyone you know who may be expecting.
- Kordi, M., Meybodi, F. A., Tara, F., Fakari, F. R., Nemati, M., & Shakeri, M. “Effect of Dates in Late Pregnancy on 3 the Duration of Labor in Nulliparous Women.” Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 22 (5) (2017), p383–387; Razali, Nuguelis et al. “Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology: The Journal of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, vol. 37, 5 (2017): p595-600.
- https://www.webmd.com/baby/eating-dates-health-benefits-while-pregnant; https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/ food-details/168191/nutrients.