Raspberry leaf tea is one of those buzzwords that sometimes gets floated around in the last trimester of pregnancy. Until pregnancy 3 I had never given it much thought but then it was suggested to me by a midwife. Being the kind of person I am I decided to look at the evidence for it.
An observational study in 1999 (1) looked at over 100 women retrospectively. Those who had taken the tea did have a shorter labour. Sounds quite promising so far
Then moving to a review by Holst in 2009 (2) who found 6 studies to compare and contrast. One of these was 50 years old and all of these were relatively small in terms of numbers of people in the studies. Sadly there just isn’t much research on this topic. The findings were that the tea can help to facilitate more rhythmic contractions of the uterus but there were some conflicting results. Some studies did show a shorter first or second stage of labour but only by a few minutes.
A better study in 2001 (3) (a randomised controlled trial) was conducted looking at the safety of the tea. It was found to be safe to take in pregnancy. When you look at the effects it had, these were it shortened the second stage of labour by a mean of 9.59 minutes and there was a lower likelihood of needing forceps.
So all in all there seem to be no safety concerns with taking sensible, moderate amounts of raspberry leaf tea (2-3 cups a day) or the capsules in pregnancy. It is advised you start this around 32 weeks of pregnancy. The benefits can be for some that it helps the uterus prepare for contractions and for some there may be a slightly shorter second stage of labour. The research shows us these benefits are by no means sizeable but hey, I quite like the taste of it and it can help pregnant mums feel like they are doing something to help labour be easier using a natural aid.
My top tip: don’t expect to find it in a local supermarket. You may need to order it online or go to a health food shop for it.
(2) Holst, L., S. Haavik, et al. (2009). “Raspberry leaf – Should it be recommended to pregnant women?” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 15(4): 204-208. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19880082
(3) J Midwifery Womens Health. 2001 Mar-Apr;46(2):51-9. Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. Simpson M1, Parsons M, Greenwood J, Wade K. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11370690