If only there was a safe, simple, side-effect-free solution. Well, dates may fit the bill.
Are Dates Best Food For Labor And Delivery?
The use of oxytocin for labor induction in the date group was less than half that of the control group, and the few on dates that were induced had more successful deliveries. An earlier study in which prior date consumption appeared to shorten labor by more than six hours speculated that maybe dates themselves have oxytocin-like effects.
All right researchers thinking; how about a head-to-head trial, comparing the efficacy of dates versus oxytocin in the management of postpartum bleeding?
Postpartum hemorrhage [excessive blood loss after birth] is one of the major complications of pregnancy, and the leading cause of maternal mortality. As the placenta peels off, the uterus is supposed to contract to staunch the bleeding, and if it doesn’t—if the uterus doesn’t have sufficient muscle tone—you can give an injection of oxytocin to help squeeze off the blood loss. Like all drugs, though, it can have side effects, sometimes causing a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
There are also various devices that can be inserted to apply pressure, and worst comes to worst surgery, but why not try fruit first? Available, cheap, and side-effect free; yeah, but does it work?
They set up a "randomized clinical trial" to find out. Immediately after the placenta came out, women were given a one-time dose of like five dates or an intramuscular shot of oxytocin. Then they just collected all the blood to see which worked better. Overall, three hours after delivery, the blood loss average in the date group was significantly less than in the oxytocin group, by about a quarter-cup.
Use of dates after delivery decreases bleeding more than intramuscular oxytocin, and it’s a good alternative in normal delivery. But wait, if dates have oxytocin-like effects to contract the uterus, shortening labor by helping to induce earlier uterine contractions, might date consumption increase the risk of premature labor?
Let’s look at the effect of date fruit consumption on the length of gestation - Starting at about 38 weeks, women were randomized to eat seven dates a day, or not. And…eating dates did not affect delivery dates, but what it did do is significantly reduce the need to induce labor with drugs. Half of the non-date group were induced versus 30% less in the seven-dates-a-day-for-a-week group.
And, induction of labor is serious business. It can increase complications such as bleeding, caesarean section, uterine hyper stimulation, and even uterus rupture. And, apart from the complications, women who are induced tend to feel less satisfied with their birth experience. Therefore, dates consumption in late pregnancy is a safe supplement to be considered as it reduced the need for labor intervention without any adverse effect on the mother and child.
The only thing we’re missing now is a double-blind study—not just a randomized trial, but a placebo-controlled study, right? The women in the date group obviously knew they were eating dates, and maybe that had some kind of placebo effect? The double-blind study describes how women just entering their active labor phase were given a date syrup or placebo. That’s brilliant. Hard to make a placebo date, but you could make some kind of placebo syrup, like molasses or something.
And: Normal labor progression was evidently higher in the date group, around 98% compared to less than 70% in both the placebo and control groups. And, labor duration was also shorter in the date group, like two hours shorter.
So, on your due date, maybe we should give dates their due.