The Benefits of Dates during Pregnancy and How They Ease Labor
Dates are safe and beneficial to the mother and her baby. The sugars in dates break down and provide energy without causing a significant increase in blood sugar levels in the body (1). Moreover, they can satisfy your sweet tooth too.
But since they are mostly consumed dried, they have more caloric content just like any other fruits, thus consuming them in moderation is key (a handful should be enough).
How Does Eating Dates Help In Labor?
Studies show that eating dates during the last few weeks of pregnancy can have positive effects on labor and delivery. Evidence from randomized control trials has shown that consuming date fruit could help in the ripening of the cervix, which may reduce the duration of labor, thus reducing the need for oxytocin and prostaglandins to induce labor (1).
High sugar content in dates can provide energy during labor, and it may help to promote uterine contractions by increasing the sensitivity of the uterus to oxytocin. Eating dates may ease the labor as well as reduce the incidence of postpartum hemorrhage (2) (3).
(Read more about “effects of date fruit consumption on labor”)
Nutrition Facts about Dates
One hundred grams of iron provides 277Kcal of energy and contains 1.8g protein and 6.7g fiber. The quantity of other essential nutrients per 100g of dates are mentioned here (4).
|RDA per day (5)||Per 100g|
Benefits of Dates during Pregnancy
Here are a few specific benefits of eating dates during pregnancy:
- Provide energy: During pregnancy, you need more energy than usual. Consuming a handful of dates every day will supply the required sugars, along with other nutrients (6).
- Relief from constipation: As dates are rich sources of fiber, they keep the digestive system healthy and help to relieve pregnancy-related constipation. They make the tummy full, reduce cholesterol levels, and help maintain a healthy weight (6) (7) (8).
- Proteins produce amino acids: Dates can provide some amount of proteins to the diet, which is required to build amino acids needed for body growth.
- Helps in preventing birth defects: Dates are a good source of folate. Folate prevents congenital defects related to the brain and spinal cord. WHO recommends folate supplements and intake of folate-rich foods before and during pregnancy, to prevent congenital disabilities (9).
- Vitamin K for the baby: Babies are born with low Vitamin K, which aids in clotting and bone development. If the mother consumes dates during and after pregnancy, the baby may get some amount of this vitamin through breastmilk.
- Contains iron: Dates contain some amount of iron and may aid in the prevention of anemia during pregnancy. Iron maintains hemoglobin in the body and strengthens both yours and your baby’s immunity.
- Maintains water-salt balance: Dates contain potassium, which maintains water-salt balance, regulates blood pressure, and avoids muscle cramps (10). The deficiency of this mineral could increase the risk of blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke.
- Bones and teeth in the baby: Magnesium is another essential mineral as it helps in the formation of teeth and bones in the baby. It also regulates your blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Dates help in preventing magnesium deficiency in pregnancy, which may otherwise increase the risk of chronic hypertension, preeclampsia, placental dysfunction, and premature labor (11).
When To Eat Dates During Pregnancy?
Dates can be eaten at any stage of gestation. You only need to be cautious about the amount you eat.
- In the first trimester, constipation is a common problem, and dates help prevent it. However, it is good to eat them in moderation in early pregnancy, especially if you have blood sugar problems or group B strep.
- In the second trimester, you are at a high risk of developing gestational diabetes. You need to take your doctor’s opinion when planning to include them in your diet.
- In the third trimester, eating dates can make your labor shorter and easier. Pregnant women can eat six dates a day starting from the 36th week, which is four weeks before the estimated due date (1).
Some women avoid dates during summer as they are believed to produce heat and upset stomach or body temperature. But this is not scientifically proven.
Side Effects of Eating Too Many Dates during Pregnancy
Dates do not have any side effects when taken in moderation. However, if you overeat them, they may cause:
- Excessive gestational weight
- Increased blood sugar
- Risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Tooth decay in case of poor oral hygiene
How to Eat Dates during Pregnancy?
Dates can be eaten in many ways.
- Smoothie: Dates with yogurt can be a great smoothie combo.
- Dessert: Add dates to couscous (steamed balls of semolina) along with sesame and pure honey.
- Syrup: Mix dates and some milk in a blender and drizzle it over ice cream, wheat waffles, toast, or oatmeal.
- Sweetener: It can be an excellent replacement for sugar in milk or juices.
- Pie crust: Puree dates and nuts in a blender and mix with pie crust dough.
- Salad dressing: Stuff dates with peanut butter and mix in a salad of your choice.
- Cookies and bars: Add in cookies, muffins, or bars for a chewy texture.
- Stuffed dates: Remove the pit and add nuts of your choice with peanut butter.
- Wraps: Dates, chicken or tuna, and other vegetables wrapped in a wheat pita or tortilla are great.
- Date parfait: Mix dates and all your favorite fruits to make a yummy parfait.
There are numerous varieties of dates such as red, black, soft, dry, and more, sold worldwide. Soft dates are very sweet and are rich in moisture. Semi-dry dates are less sweet and chewier. Dry dates are usually used in baking and usually not eaten raw. Dry, soft, or any other texture, dates make healthy and delicious snacks.
Though dates are a storehouse of goodness, do take your doctor’s opinion on how, when, and how much to consume to prevent any side effects. Dates can be an excellent alternative to sugar if you want to cut down your sugar intake during pregnancy, without disappointing your sweet tooth!
Have you tried any yummy date recipes during your pregnancy? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Masoumeh Kordi, et al.; Effect of Dates in Late Pregnancy on the Duration of Labor in Nulliparous Women
2. Al-Kuran O et al.; The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery.
3. Razali N, et al.; Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery.
4. Dates, Medjool; USDA
5. Micronutrient Needs During Pregnancy and Lactation; Oregon State University
6. Al-Farsi MA and Lee CY.; Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review.
7. Abdellaziz Souli, et al.; Effects of Dates Pulp Extract and Palm Sap (Phoenix dactylifera L.) on Gastrointestinal Transit Activity in Healthy Rats
8. Alqarni MMM, et al.; Antioxidant and antihyperlipidemic effects of Ajwa date (Phoenix dactylifera L.) extracts in rats fed a cholesterol-rich diet.
9. Periconceptional folic acid supplementation to prevent neural tube defects; World Health Organization
10. Increasing potassium intake to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular diseases in adults; World Health Organization
11. E Zarean, A Tarjan; Effect of Magnesium Supplement on Pregnancy Outcomes: A Randomized Control Trial; Adv Biomed Res