Raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy and labour: the facts to know
The dos and don'ts of taking raspberry leaf tea or capsules when you're pregnant. Plus, is it safe and does it actually speed up labour?
If your baby's due soon, you've probably heard that drinking raspberry leaf tea (or taking raspberry leaf capsules) in the weeks before your due date can help reduce the length of your labour. You might also have heard that it can bring on labour.
There's definitely anecdotal evidence that drinking raspberry leaft can help you have a quicker labour. One of the mums on our forum, 1st-time-bump tells us: "I started taking 1 capsule a day from 34 weeks, slowly going up to 3 a day. My labour was quite quick for a 1st labour, so I think it really helped."
But, when it comes down to it, is there any truth in all this – or is it all an old (mid)wives' tale?
Is there any scientific evidence that that raspberry leaf shortens labour?
Our trusted GP Dr Philippa Kaye says there's a real lack of proper studies on this topic, so it's actually really hard to know for sure.
"While I can't say if it does work," she says, "many complementary therapists believe that it does help your cervix soften, as well as help tone the muscles of your womb – all of which would hopefully bring on and speed up labour."
If you do want to give it a try, most people start taking it (as a tea or in capsules) at about 38 weeks.
It's important to know, though, that you shouldn't start drinking it before you're 32 weeks pregnant. See also 'Is it safe to take raspberry leaf in pregnancy?', for other situations when you shouldn't take it.
Dr Philippa's not wrong when she says there's not much research out there: according to The Pregnant Scientist there have only been 5 studies carried out on human – and 6 carried out on non-humans in petri dishes!
However, one of the human studies makes for pretty interesting reading. In Raspberry Leaf Tea and Its Effect On Labour: safety and efficacy, published in 1999, Australian researchers who conducted a retrospective observational study of 108 pregnant women – comparing those who drank raspberry leaf tea to those who didn't – said that their findings "suggest that the raspberry leaf herb can be consumed by women during their pregnancy for the purpose for which it is taken – that is, to shorten labour with no identified side effects for the women or their babies.
What's more, they continued: "An unexpected finding in this study seems to indicate that women who ingest raspberry leaf might be less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth than the women in the control group."
Fascinating stuff, eh?
And it certainly chimes with the experience of mama_milf on our forum, who tells us she's sure it worked for her labour, saying, "I drank the tea and eventually took the capsules (not together!) to try and start things off from about 36 weeks. I did get pretty strong Braxton Hicks after [taking] them [and I did have a short labour: 3hrs 25 minutes from start to finish (2nd baby). I will take it again this time."
And can raspberry leaf tea bring on labour?
EmsieLou6785 in our forum absolutely believes so: "I used the raspberry leaf tablets and I think they helped me go into labour early (38+5)."
But, again, we haven't found much evidence to back that up.
Dr Philippa also advises not using it as a way to bring on labour if you go very overdue (see Is it safe to take raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy?).
"I can't find that there is a stop date for it," she tells us, "but if you haven't delivered naturally by week 41 you will be induced by your antenatal team. It is not advised that you suddenly start taking it at week 40 to try and trigger labour."
Herbal medicines are medicines and should be considered as such: the fact that something is natural doesn't mean that it can't harm you (many traditional medicines come from plants).
"So check with your antenatal team before taking it," says Dr Philippa. "And you should know that it should not be taken:
- before 32 weeks of pregnancy
- if you have had bleeding/spotting after the 1st trimester
- if you previously had had premature labour, or a very quick labour (less than 3 hours)
- if your baby is breech
- if you have a multiple pregnancy
- if you're overdue
- if you have any complications or health conditions in pregnancy such as raised blood pressure."
When – and how often – can I start taking it?
As explained above, it's not advised to start taking it before 32 weeks.
"If it is going to work," says Dr Philippa, "it doesn't work instantly, so drinking a cup or taking a capsule is not going to mean instant labour!
"Therapists advise building up from 1 cup of tea per day from about 32 weeks to up to 3 cups by the end of your pregnancy."
Where can I get raspberry leaf tea and capsules?
You can get raspberry leaf at:
- Whole Foods
- The Kent And Sussex Tea and Coffee Co
- Holland & Barrett (Natural Aid Raspberry Leaf Tablets)