July 23, 2024

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Raspberry leaf tea: Benefits during pregnancy, safety concerns, and whether it can induce labor

5 min read
Raspberry leaf tea: Benefits during pregnancy, safety concerns, and whether it can induce labor

A soothing cup of tea can be especially comforting during pregnancy, and it’s a nice go-to when other beverages are off limits. But not all herbal teas are safe during pregnancy. Here’s what to consider before you buy a box or bag of red raspberry leaf tea.

What is red raspberry leaf tea?

Red raspberry leaf tea is an herbal tea made from the leaves of the raspberry plant (Rubus idaeus). The tea has been used throughout history for medicinal purposes, particularly for uterine and pregnancy health. Some women also drink it to help induce labor, although there’s no good evidence that this works.

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What are the benefits of red raspberry leaf tea?

Raspberry leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and E, as well as iron, calcium, and potassium. The tea has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties thought to be beneficial to overall health.

While researchers continue to study the possible benefits and safety of raspberry leaf during pregnancy and for labor, solid conclusions are hard to come by. Many studies are small, dated, and conflicting. And many findings are inconclusive, with authors pointing to the need for more research.

Here are some of the possible benefits of raspberry leaf tea:

  • Improved uterine health. The tea is thought to increase blood flow to the uterus and strengthen uterine muscle fibers. This may make contractions more effective during labor. One reviewOpens a new window of 13 animal and human studies spanning 75 years concluded that raspberry leaf affects smooth muscle, including uterine muscle. But the review didn’t find conclusive evidence that raspberry leaf helps with labor.
  • Shortened labor. By toning uterine muscles, it’s thought that raspberry tea might shorten labor. One small studyOpens a new window of fewer than than 200 women found that raspberry tea shortened the second stage of labor by about 10 minutes. No studies have duplicated these findings, though.
  • Reduced need for labor interventions: The same small study found a decrease in the use of forceps in women who consumed raspberry leaf in tablet form from 32 weeks of pregnancy until labor.
  • Lowered rates of preterm and post-term birth: A small, observational studyOpens a new window found that women who drank raspberry leaf tea were more likely to give birth close to their due date than those who didn’t.
  • Reduced nausea. Some midwives and herbalists promote red raspberry tea as a way to ease morning sickness. However, there’s no scientific evidence that it works, and there’s controversy over whether it’s safe to drink the tea during the first trimester. Some experts think the stimulating effects of the tea on the uterus could cause a miscarriage early in pregnancy.
  • Eased labor pains. Raspberry leaf is sometimes said to reduce the pain of labor, but there are no studies to confirm this.

Can I drink red raspberry leaf tea to induce labor?

Women sometimes use raspberry leaf in an effort to induce labor. But there’s no conclusive evidence that it works, and we don’t know for sure that it’s safe. Some doctors and midwives advise against taking anything that could interfere with labor, especially if, like raspberry leaf tea, its safety hasn’t been well studied.

One reviewOpens a new window concluded that women who used herbal medicine such as raspberry leaf for induction were more likely to give birth within 24 hours than those who didn’t. But it also found inconclusive evidence as far as safety.

Another, recent reviewOpens a new window of studies on the effect of raspberry leaves and extracts concluded that “there is currently no evidence suggesting that women should take these preparations during pregnancy. The evidence based on the studies conducted so far on the use of raspberry extracts during pregnancy shows that they do not provide any benefit.” According to that review, consuming raspberry extracts might inhibit cervical ripening (softening and thinning of the cervix in preparation for labor).

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If you’ve been drinking raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy and want to continue drinking small amounts as you approach your due date, there’s probably no harm. But ask your doctor or midwife first, and don’t drink a lot of the tea. It’s possible that having a lot of raspberry leaf tea at once could lead to intense contractions that distress your baby. It could also make you feel sick or give you diarrhea.

Is red raspberry leaf tea safe during pregnancy?

It’s not clear whether red raspberry leaf tea is completely safe during pregnancy. Some experts recommend avoiding the tea completely when you’re expecting, because there’s not enough evidence to prove that it’s safe or beneficial.

Others say – because of a long history of use and a lack of good evidence pointing to problems – that it’s okay to drink small to moderate amounts of the tea during pregnancy.

“Many women have done their own research and want to give it a try, and in most cases I see no harm,” says Layan Alrahmani, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and maternal-fetal medicine specialist and member of the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board.

How much red raspberry leaf tea should I drink during pregnancy?

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any herbal supplement during pregnancy, including red raspberry tea.

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If you do decide to drink raspberry tea after checking with your provider, says Dr. Alrahmani, avoid drinking the tea during the first trimester. Start sometime between 32 weeks of pregnancy and your due date, with just one cup a day. You could gradually increase this to a couple of cups a day. Make sure you also drink plenty of water, because raspberry tea may act as a mild diuretic.

Dr. Alrahmani advises avoiding any tablet forms of raspberry, which may contain other ingredients and provide too high a concentration of raspberry leaf. As an herbal product, raspberry leaf isn’t strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that different products may contain different strengths and formulations. (Check for other ingredients, even in teas, and make sure that these are safe to take during pregnancy.)

Stop drinking the tea if you start getting strong Braxton Hicks contractions or any other side effects.

Who shouldn’t drink red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy?

Don’t drink raspberry leaf tea if:

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Also, tell your doctor if you’re taking any medications and want to drink raspberry tea, because there can be interactions.

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