How to Incorporate Dates During Pregnancy with Gestational Diabetes


  • Labor and delivery are an exciting part of pregnancy and can be anxiety-producing for pregnant women as many factors contribute to successful delivery. 
  • Eating dates during the late stages of pregnancy can play an important role in healthy labor and delivery outcomes.
  • Dates have been shown to decrease initial labor time, increase cervical dilation, and positively impact oxytocin receptors during delivery!

Eating dates during pregnancy might seem like a challenge. It may be even harder if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This is usually done by your healthcare provider. Eating carbs, like dates, during pregnancy is a hotly debated topic. It’s time to clear up the confusion! Not only can you eat dates safely during pregnancy, but they may actually help improve your blood glucose levels. They also help promote a swift and healthy natural birth!

Health benefits of eating Dates during pregnancy

Dates are high in many vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6. They also contain manganese and copper and a potent source of antioxidants and healthy fiber. 

Dates have been widely studied. They have also been historically used by midwives to induce healthy and natural labor. Dates contain several compounds. These are thought to decrease initial labor time and increase cervical dilation. These compounds also respond to the body’s natural oxytocin more effectively. 

Furthermore, dates can help contribute to a healthy natural labor process! This can even be true for those with gestational diabetes.  Working with a dietitian who specializes in diabetes is a good idea. They can help you best manage your blood sugar level while enjoying the benefits of dates!

Can eating dates bring on labor?

It’s true that dates appear to have a positive impact on pregnancy. They promote natural labor. They may also help decrease total labor time.

When should you begin eating dates during pregnancy? How many dates should you be eating?  Research suggests eating 4-6 dates a day. This might be the sweet spot for a positive impact on your labor experience. In the same research, women consumed six dates a day for the last four weeks of their pregnancy. Results showed that they were more likely to naturally go into labor. They were also significantly less likely to be induced. If you prefer to avoid inducing labor, this naturally sweet fruit might fit the bill!

Similarly, another study found a similar result. Their cohort of women ate dates starting in week 37 of pregnancy. They were in active labor for 4 less hours on average! This is compared to the women who did not consume dates during their final month of pregnancy.

The initial results of these studies are promising. However, more conclusive research is needed to validate the full effect of dates on labor. 

How does it work?

Dates are well-researched. Their benefits regarding late-term pregnancy and easing labor circumstances are being studied. Researchers believe that dates make the uterine muscles respond better to oxytocin. This leads to more effective contractions. Oxytocin is the pregnancy hormone that induces uterine contractions during labor. It is also the same hormone given to induce labor. Researchers found that women who consumed dates in late-stage pregnancy did not require as much oxytocin. This is compared to the women who did not consume dates. 

When the compounds in dates bind with the oxytocin receptors, they mimic the way oxytocin behaves during labor and contractions. Thus, labor is potentially eased. This is a result of the oxytocin receptors being occupied. 

Date fruit also may influence progesterone and estrogen levels. In turn, this positively impacts cervical ripening. This effect has downstream implications. They promote cervical dilation. They can also shorten labor and delivery time. 

In fact, another study proves the same result. The women ate dates beginning at 37 weeks. It was found that they needed less oxytocin to stimulate the birthing process and induce labor. 

What if I have Gestational Diabetes? Can I eat Dates during pregnancy?

The short answer is yes! All foods can be a part of a healthy diet. This diet includes fruit and dried fruit. It’s true that dates are primarily carbohydrates. However, they are also a low glycemic fruit. This means that they do not spike your blood sugar levels. This is compared to sugary foods like cakes and ice cream. Some research even suggests that they may actually help manage your blood sugar! For best blood sugar results, utilize portion control. We recommend pairing dates with a protein and healthy fat source. Consuming foods with protein and fat prior to carbohydrate foods can help to reduce blood sugar spikes.

The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that indicates how quickly a food will raise blood glucose levels. A low glycemic option such as dates may still have carbohydrates. However, they will not cause blood glucose levels to rise as much as a high glycemic food. Other low glycemic foods include oats, milk, sweet potatoes, and most other fruits. 

To ensure proper blood sugar management, we recommend including only 1-2 dates as a serving. You can pair them with other low glycemic foods. Spacing out your carbohydrate consumption throughout the day so you have consistency at each meal can be an important tool for managing diabetes. Check your blood sugar as directed by your healthcare provider. We also recommend working with a dietitian. They will help customize your nutrition plan for your gestational diabetes!

Barring any contraindications, dates can be quite impactful on the birthing process! We recommend eating 60-90 grams of dates per day to begin with. This is equivalent to about 4 dates. They can have a positive impact on decreasing labor time!

Consider adding dates to your smoothies or blending them  into sauces and dressings with a food processor. You can also just pop them whole with a side of nuts or cheese as a snack!

Summary

Dates are a healthy and low glycemic option for late-stage pregnancy. They can lighten the load of labor and delivery. They have a potent ability to promote a natural pregnancy without the need for induction!

Scientific Information

  • Contractions -the tightening of the uterine muscles which prepare the body for birth.
  • Oxytocin – the pregnancy hormone that initiates contractions.
  • Natural labor – labor that does not require hormonal stimulation to induce contractions.
  • Induction – the process of inducing women into labor by stimulating contractions.
  • Glycemic index  – a scale that rates the effect of food on blood sugar on a scale of 1 to 100.
Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian
Written by:

Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES

Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator

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