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It is said that eating dates during the ninth month of your pregnancy can ease labour. Is it true or not? How do dates help ease labour?
Let’s look into the relationship between pregnancy and dates.
Dates and Pregnancy
Dates are not only safe for both the mother and baby, but they are beneficial too. Dates contain the sugar–fructose that breaks quickly and offers instant energy without altering the blood sugar levels. Dates in pregnancy are good as they contain laxatives which aid in uterus contractions and ease labour by shortening it.
Research proves that the consumption of dates during late pregnancy shortens labour and affects delivery positively by reducing the risk to both the mother and the baby.
Nutritional Value of Dates
Here is a table that shows the nutritional content in 100g of dates:
|Vitamin K||2.7 mcg|
Dates are highly recommended for pregnant women as they can reduce the risk of anaemia, help cope with morning sickness, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, get rid of toxins, boost immunity, and maintain healthy calcium content in the body. Dates are loaded with different kinds of nutrients that offer all these benefits. Let’s take a look at what these nutrients are and how they help you:
- Iron: Everyone knows that the iron requirement of a pregnant woman is more than that of a woman who is not pregnant. Dates are enriched with iron and can help keep anaemia at bay by ensuring that your blood has a healthy haemoglobin count. Iron helps in various metabolic processes in your body and boosts both your and your baby’s immune system
- Folate: Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients that you need to consume. It prevents brain and spinal cord birth defects in babies
- Vitamin K: Vitamin K, in general, helps your blood to clot. It also helps in the development of your baby’s bone structure and dates are among the best sources of this vitamin. A deficiency in vitamin K can be harmful to your baby’s health. By eating dates, you can compensate for this deficiency if you’re facing it.
- Fibre: Dates offer a high content of fibre, and so you can digest them easily. Constipation is common during pregnancy, and you can prevent that by eating dates. Dates ease digestion and also reduce the level of bad cholesterol from the body. Eating dates will make your tummy feel full and this, in turn, will help in maintaining a healthy body weight, something which is crucial during pregnancy.
- Potassium: Potassium is required to maintain the salt balance in the body, and it aids in maintaining the blood pressure as well. Muscle cramps are common during pregnancy, and you can prevent them by ensuring that your body has sufficient level of potassium. Deficiency of this nutrient can lead to kidney problems.
- Fructose: As already mentioned above, dates contain fructose which ensures that your energy levels are always high. It is important to be high on energy during pregnancy for your body to be able to cope with the changes you face. Eat dates as they offer instant energy.
- Sugar: You will need more calories as compared to a woman who is not pregnant. Eat a couple of dates whenever you are hungry as this fruit is a source of good sugar and offers you the much-needed calories without affecting your weight.
- Magnesium: Your baby needs magnesium for bone and teeth formation. It helps in regulating your blood sugar and blood pressure as well.
Best Benefits of Eating Dates During Pregnancy
A study conducted by the students of Jordan University of Science and Technology has proved the advantages of eating dates when pregnant, and they are:
- When you are pregnant, your body needs more energy and dates will offer you that. Consuming a handful of dates will provide you with the necessary energy without adding to the calories
- Dates will also help to keep constipation away. Dates are a rich source of fibre and will keep your digestive system healthy and keep away pregnancy-related constipation away. Dates make you feel full, reduce the level of bad cholesterol, and help you maintain a healthy weight. This is among the most useful dates benefits in pregnancy when indigestion is a major problem
- Dates contain proteins too, and these proteins help to build amino acids required for body growth
- As already mentioned, dates contain folate too. Folate is required for the proper development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord
- Dates are enriched with vitamin K.Vitamin K helps in bone development and blood clotting.
- Dates also help prevent anaemia as they are rich in iron. Anemia is common during pregnancy and you can prevent it by eating dates on a regular basis. Iron helps to maintain the haemoglobin level in your blood and boosts your baby’s immunity as well
- Dates also help to maintain water-salt balance in your body as they contain potassium. Potassium also prevents muscle cramps and regulates blood pressure. Deficiency in potassium can lead to kidney-related issues
- Eating dates will improve the teeth and bone health of your baby. Dates contain magnesium, and this helps in the formation of bone and teeth in babies. Magnesium also helps in maintaining the blood pressure and blood sugar. It also prevents prevent kidney and liver abnormalities
- The cervical-dilation of pregnant women who ate dates was found to be higher compared to the pregnant women who did not eat dates. This proved that the early stage of labour is shorter in date-eating pregnant women
- Research proves that more than 83% of the women who ate dates had their membranes intact when admitted to the hospital and less than 28% of these women were given synthetic Oxytocin or Pitocin during their labour. On the other hand, 60% of non-date eating pregnant women had their membranes intact, and about 43% of them needed Pitocin.
- Labour occurred spontaneously in more than 96% of the women who ate dates during pregnancy, and in79% in the case of women who did not eat dates
- Dates help by boosting the oxytocin effect or the contraction of the womb which in turn enhances the uterus sensitivity
- Calcium, serotonins, and tannin present in the fruit help in the proper contraction of the uterus muscles
- Dates contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids that supply energy. They also help in producing prostaglandins. Both the oxytocin effect and prostaglandins are essential for labour
- Dates ease and shorten labour as it contains laxatives which aid contractions
Eating Dates During Different Stages of Gestation
This is a common question that pregnant women ask. Read on to discover when to start eating dates during pregnancy
Eating Dates in the First Trimester
Eating dates is important in the first trimester as constipation is a big issue during this time. Eat dates to ensure your bowels are moving smoothly, and you do not have any internal discomfort. However, make sure to limit the quantity when eating dates during first trimester pregnancy, more so, if you have blood sugar issues or you have group B strep infection (an infection found in the rectum or vagina of a pregnant woman).
Eating Dates in the Second Trimester
You can avoid eating dates during the second trimester as the chances of getting gestational diabetes are quite high during this time. However, you can always talk to your gynaecologists and then take a call, as eating a few of them will not do any harm.
Eating Dates in Third Trimester
Make sure you eat dates during the third trimester as this will help in shortening the labour and making the entire delivery process easy thanks to the natural laxative which aid contractions. Start eating six dates in a day from the starting of the 36th week i.e. four weeks from the expected date of delivery.
Eating Dates in Summer
Many women prefer to avoid eating dates during summer as they think that it will upset their stomachs. However, this has not been scientifically proven.
However, it is advisable to limit the intake of dates during summers if you are pregnant. It is said that dates produce heat in the body. When you are pregnant, the heat production is as it is more due to different physical and hormonal changes. So, eating too many dates might increase that heat production. Limit the intake during the last stages of your pregnancy to avoid any complications.
Eating Dates in Winter
Regardless of the weather, it is important not to overeat dates. You can increase your date-intake during winters as the heat produced will help in beating the cold will also keep providing you with the required nutrients.
As a rule of thumb, you will need 300 calories extra every day for the proper development of the foetus. It is your duty to choose healthy options for the consumption of all these calories, options that are loaded with nutrients and avoid foods that are low in nutrition and high in sugar. Folate, iron, calcium, and potassium are among the most important nutrients that your body needs during pregnancy and dates offer you all of these nutrients.
Different ways of Consuming Dates during Pregnancy
There are many ways in which you can eat dates in your pregnancy. The first way is, of course, eating them raw. Here are some more ideas on how to eat dates during pregnancy:
- Make a Smoothie: Mix six dates with a cup of yoghurt and mix them in a blender to make a smoothie
- Syrup: Make date syrup at home by blending few dates and milk. Drizzle the mixture over ice cream, toast, waffles or oatmeal
- Dessert: To make simple date dessert, you can just add dates to steamed semolina and sesame and drizzle honey on the top
- Pie Crust: Mix dates and nuts in the grinder and make a smooth puree. Mix that with the pie dough for a healthy crust
- Sweetener: Replace sugar with dates in milk and other drinks. Consumption of fructose is any day a better option than that of sucrose
- Cookies and Muffins: You can add dates to your cookie or muffin batter and enhance their taste
- Salad Dressing: De-seed the dates and stuff them with peanut butter and add them to any salad of your choice
- Wraps: You can also include dates in chicken and tuna for a subtle taste
Which Variety of Dates to Eat?
There are many varieties of dates available. While some varieties are soft and have high moisture content, some other varieties are dry and chewy. Regardless of the type, you can use these to make numerous snacks and recipes. Let’s look at the varieties of dates that you can eat during pregnancy:
- Chinese Red Dates
These are high in iron and can help in preventing anaemia. These dates are even known to improve the quality of the mother’s milk and prevent haemorrhage post-delivery
- Medjool Dates
This variety of dates has all the vitamins and nutrients that a pregnant woman needs. They happen to be an excellent source of carbohydrate and have low-fat content. Enriched with fibre and proteins, this is one of the best varieties of dates that you can have while you are pregnant. Medjool dates are high in vitamin content as well—folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine, and other vitamins like A, C, and K. All these help in the various metabolic process of your body and also aid in the development of the baby. The high iron content in these dates helps in reducing bad cholesterol and keeps your heart healthy. Antioxidants eliminate free radicals and prevent cancer too.
Are there any Harmful Effects of Eating Dates during Pregnancy?
As such, no study claims that dates are unsafe for pregnant women. In fact, eating dates in moderation during the first, and third trimesters is excellent for your health and your baby’s too. However, if you overeat, you may experience the following:
- Excessive weight
- Chance of gestational diabetes
- Increase in blood sugar levels
- Tooth decay in case you do not mention maintain proper oral hygiene
Precautions To Take
Are there any precautions to take? Yes. You need to be careful about the amount you are eating. Overeating can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Dates are loaded with nutrients and eating them is easy. You can just pop a few in your mouth, and that is all you need to do. Dates have been the traditional food for women in labour from ancient times, and doctors also recommend that pregnant women include dates in their daily diets. There are many ways by which you ease and shorten labour, and eating dates are one of the many ways. If you are a mother-to-be and you are planning to include dates in your diet, consult your doctor first. Look for brands that offer organic dates as these are free of any chemicals or preservatives. It is best to consume fresh dates.
Do not forget to include dates in your special journey, as they are full of goodness and the benefits of consuming them during pregnancy are irreplaceable.