You are probably familiar with the favourite fruit, the Raspberry (Rubus idaeus). The raspberry is native to many parts of Europe and Northern America. A century-old remedy, leaves of the raspberry plant are useful as a medicinal herb. Furthermore, the raspberry leaf may have many different properties, including those that are beneficial for pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
Many think that raspberry leaf, if taken regularly through pregnancy and labour, can help with:
- Ease the symptoms of morning sickness.
- Sooth and prevent bleeding gums, which many pregnant women often experience.
- Relax the smooth muscles of the uterus when it is contracting (Burn & Withell, 1941).
- Assist with the birth of the baby and the placenta.
- Calm the uterus’ cramping.
- Provide a rich source of iron, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. The magnesium content is especially helpful in strengthening the uterine muscles. Raspberry leaf also contains vitamins B1, B3, and E, which are valuable in pregnancy.
Raspberry leaf is also thought useful for:
- Aiding fertility.
- Promote a plentiful supply of breastmilk.
- Help stop excess bleeding after birth.
- Treat diarrhoea.
- Regulate an irregular menstrual cycle and decreases heavy periods.
- Relieve sore throats.
- Reduce fever.
Around one-fifth of pregnant women take some form of raspberry leaf. To help shorten labour and make birth easier. Interestingly the use of this herb for remedial purposes dates back to the sixth century. Recorded benefits in childbirth are a proven aid in maternity in the most ancient of herbal books.
This article is for information purposes only. Please consult your midwife or doctor before taking raspberry leaf.
We thank Myra Parsons (Research Midwife) – who assisted with the preparation of this article.
Is there any research on the effects of Raspberry Leaf?
Research exists on the effects of raspberry leaf extracts on animals and women in the first week after birth (Burn & Withell, 1941; Whitehouse, 1941). Raspberry leaf may cause a relaxant effect on the uterus. Additionally, this relaxant effect causes the uterine contractions of labour to become better coordinated. Labour is subsequently more efficient and shorter. A common assumption is that women who take raspberry leaf will have an improved second and third stage. Consequently, it’s thought to be a reduced risk of bleeding after birth.
Three midwives from Westmead Hospital in Sydney looked at the literature to try to find further research on the use of Raspberry leaf and its effects on labour. They could find no such analysis. These same midwives decided to research raspberry leaf effects. The first study they carried out was an observational study on women who were currently taking raspberry leaf in pregnancy. They compared them to women who did not take any of the forms of the herb. There were 108 women in the study (57 consuming raspberry leaf and 51 who did not). Some women started taking raspberry leaf in their pregnancy as early as eight weeks, and others began as late as 39 weeks. Most women, however, started taking raspberry leaf between 28 and 34 weeks in their pregnancy.
The Research Findings
The findings of the observational study suggested that women consume raspberry leaf herb in pregnancy to help improve labour outcomes. That is, to shorten labour with no identified side effects for the women or their babies. An unexpected finding in this study was that the women in the raspberry leaf group were less likely than the control group to require:
- Artificial rupture of membranes
- Caesarean birth
- Forceps or vacuum birth
Two of the three original midwives (Myra Parsons and Michele Simpson) decided that the next step was to perform a randomised controlled trial, using a larger sample; to substantiate the findings of the observational study. A second study completed earlier this year by Parsons (2000) reports the safety of raspberry leaf tablets (2.4gm daily) taken from 32 weeks of pregnancy until the commencement of labour. There were no side effects identified for mother or baby.
The analysis of the findings suggested that raspberry leaf tablets shortened the second stage of labour by an average of 10 minutes. However, they made no difference to the length of the first stage of labour. Raspberry leaf tablets reduced the incidence of artificial rupture of membranes, forceps, and ventouse births. Although the reduced rate of these interventions did not prove to be statistically significant – the researches states that ‘these results are clinically significant.’