Last week I posted this photo on Facebook about the beneficial effects of eating dates during the last weeks of pregnancy. To my surprise the post went viral! There were some comments on the post that triggered my curiosity and I went on a search for more information.
The date fruit is the product of the date palm, a tree native to Northern Africa and the Middle East. There is a wide variety of dates including the better known Medjool and Deglet Noor. Each variety is unique in size, sweetness, flavor, and texture. Containing at least 15 minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, 23 types of amino acids, vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, 14 types of fatty acids, dietary fiber and a lot more, these sweet little fruits are a nutritional powerhouse. [International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2003]
On the photo I quote a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology which concludes that eating 6 dates daily during the last four weeks of pregnancy “significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labor, and produced a more favorable, but non-significant, delivery outcome”. Some significant findings:
- Cervical dilation was significantly greater in the date-eating mamas upon arrival at the hospital
- 83% of mothers who consumed dates had their membranes intact upon admission at the hospital
- 96% of the women who ate dates went into labor on their own
- Use of Pitocin (synthetic Oxytocin) was significantly lower in women who consumed dates (28%), compared with the non-date fruit mothers (47%)
- The latent phase of the first stage of labor was almost 7 hours shorter in the date-eating mothers compared with the non-date fruit eaters (510 min vs 906 min). Not bad for eating a few dates!
I also came across a very interesting research comparing the use of dates and Pitocin in the management of postpartum hemorrhage. The study demonstrates a significant reduction in the amount of postpartum bleeding experienced by women who consumed date fruit compared to women who received synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin). The randomized clinical trial was done in two hospitals. Immediately after the delivery of the placenta one group was give 50 gram of dates. Another group received 10 units of synthetic oxytocin in an intramuscular injection. Blood loss mean in the end of first hour after delivery were significantly different in dates and oxytocin groups (104 ml vs 141.6 ml) The researchers suggest that dates are effective for management of postpartum hemorrhage because dates have Calcium, serotonin, tannin, linoleic acid, enzimes, iron and other nutrients beneficial to control bleeding and prevent anemia. Khadem, Sharaphy, Latifnejad (2007)
These studies are yet another confirmation of the priceless legacy of ancient wisdom. Since the beginning of time, women have been using food, teas, oils, poultices and herbs to ease the pains of labor, heal during postpartum and support breastfeeding. Eating dates has been emphasized during pregnancy and after delivery in many Islamic traditions.
The Quaran tells of Mary eating dates in labor: “The pains of labour drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She [Mary] said, “Oh if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!” A voice called out to her from under her, “Do not grieve! Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm towards you and fresh, ripe dates will drop down onto you. Eat and drink and delight your eyes…” (Qur’an, 19:23-26)
Dates are also said to increase sexual stamina, help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Dates have been used for thousands of years by athletes to improve physical endurance, agility, and stamina. So start eating your dates and have them handy during labor!