Pregnant ladies, are you hitting the raspberry leaf tea? Or are you wondering what all the fuss is about? You may have heard vague claims that it's supposed to be helpful, somehow, to the whole baby-making process. But what exactly is it supposed to do? How much do you take, when? And is it even safe? A lot of this depends on who you trust: Your herbalist or your traditional OB/GYN. But we can at least spell out the basics, what raspberry leaf is believed to do, and what studies have shown it can do.
First of all, raspberry leaf is believed to strengthen the pelvic and uterine muscles, which in turn support a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Those muscles are supposed to work more effectively with the supplement. Some people believe it can shorten delivery and make it less painful. As an antioxidant, raspberry leaf may also provide expecting moms with added nutrients. Women take it in capsule or dried leaf tea form, usually in the last months of pregnancy (though some will take it throughout).
Okay, so that's how it's supposed to work. Is it really effective?
WebMD says raspberry leaves during pregnancy may help relax blood vessels and cause muscles to contract or relax, "depending on the dose and the muscle involved." They deem it "possibly" safe but recommend taking only under the direction of your doctor. They also point out that the herb mimics the hormone estrogen, which could possibly harm the pregnancy.
A study conducted by Australian midwives on 108 women found those who took the herb were less likely to have membranes artificially ruptured, have cesarean sections, or other labor assists. In a followup study, they found the tablet form of the herb had no adverse effects on mothers or babies. But it did not shorten the first stage of labor, either, though it did shorten the second stage by 10 minutes.
The NYU Langone Medical Center points out that while studies on animals show raspberry leaf can be a uterine stimulant and relaxant, the same effect has not yet been proven for humans. In a study of 192 pregnant women who began taking the herb at the 32nd week and continued through the onset of labor, the herb did not significantly shorten labor or reduce pain or complications. However, they, too, found moderate doses posed no harm.
Have you ever taken raspberry leaf during pregnancy? What was your experience?
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