As a midwife, I am asked all the time for advice on how to get labour started naturally. Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything that can get labour started on it’s own; your baby will come when your baby is ready. There are lots of anecdotal ways that are suggested and raspberry leaf tea is one of them. It is a herbal remedy that has been used for centuries in pregnancy and childbirth.
Red raspberry leaves contains fragarine. This is the active component responsible for toning the muscles of the uterus, so they work more efficiently when you’re in labour. The idea is this will help your labour to progress at a steady pace.
Raspberry leaf tea can assist in the preparation for birth as it acts on smooth muscle and helps tone the myometrium. The myometrium’s function is to induce uterine contractions. The theory is the raspberry leaf tea will help your Braxton Hicks to become stronger and turn into labour contractions. There is no evidence that this is true but women will swear by raspberry leaf tea!
There have been some small studies that suggest by drinking raspberry leaf tea, the length of labour was shortened and postpartum bleeding was also decreased. Some studies have also shown that it can decrease interventions and complications in childbirth; such as a reduction in the use of forceps. However, there hasn’t been enough research to fully understand the benefits of it. The main point is studies have shown that in straight forward pregnancies, it causes no harm to mother or baby, therefore it is worth a try!
Other health benefits of raspberry leaf tea
Red raspberry leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. They contain B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium. Magnesium contributes to the strengthening of the uterine muscles. They also contain antioxidant properties.
How to take raspberry leaf tea
Raspberry leaf tea can be started from 32 weeks of pregnancy. You can use tea bags, fresh leaves or a tablet, although the tablet isn’t really recommended. You should gradually build up the amount you have. When you first start drinking it, have one cup a day. The following week, increase to two cups, then three in the third week. You shouldn’t drink more than three cups a day. Some people find it hard to tolerate so if it takes longer to build up to three cups a day that is fine.
As it is a herbal remedy, it needs to treated like any drug or medicine. It will effect everyone differently. The main side effects include loose stools and nausea.
If you are near your due date and haven’t started drinking it, don’t suddenly start consuming lots of it. If you take too much, it can cause intense contractions that can distress your baby. Instead, start with one cup a day and build up over the weeks you have left in your pregnancy.
Drinking more than the recommended amount can actually have the opposite effect; it can prevent you from going into labour and can prolong your pregnancy. If you experience strong Braxton Hicks after having the tea, cut down on the amount that you have.
Who should avoid raspberry leaf tea
Raspberry leaf tea is safe for women having straight forward pregnancies. It is not recommended if –
- you have had a previous pre-term labour (before 37 weeks)
- you have had a previous fast labour
- you have had a previous caesarean section
- you are planning a caesarean section in this pregnancy
- you planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean section)
- your baby is small or there are any issues with your baby
- you are expecting twins
- you have high blood pressure
- you have had any bleeding in the second half of your pregnancy
- you have major fibroids
- your baby is a breech position
There are several medical conditions that raspberry leaf tea is contraindicated for. They are –
- Gestational diabetes – if you are on Metformin or Insulin
- Cardiac problems
- Severe asthma
- Any gastrointestinal issues such as IBS or Crohn’s Disease
In summary, raspberry leaf tea helps to strengthen uterine muscles. It may help you have a shorter labour. You can drink 1-3 cups a day from 32 weeks of pregnancy.
As with any herbal remedy, you should consult a herbalist before taking raspberry leaf tea, especially if you are considering taking it in tablet form. For general information on taking herbal medicines, please see NHS Choices.