Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is an herb derived from the leaves of raspberry plants and has been used medicinally as early as the 6th century. It does not have the taste of raspberries, unfortunately for me, because I love a good fresh raspberry – dark chocolate combo myself, and my kids love fresh raspberries in yoghurt or just for snacking. (Who doesn’t?! They’re so satisfying!) The tea offers a rather mild, herbal flavor that is quite similar to black tea but without the caffeine. Win for mamas avoiding or limiting caffeine intake!
Red raspberry leaf is rich in the nutrients magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and especially high in vitamins B and C; its nutrient profile is dense and beneficial for all women and especially during seasons of vitamin depletion such as pregnancy, while we are sharing our bodies with our precious babies. Menstruation, menopause or sickness are also times that are taxing on a woman’s body. This herb is awesome for immune system support during flu or allergy season and is safe for children! It’s so important to get your nutrients from food based sources like herbs first, especially in the form of a tea, because it absorbs so much more readily into the bloodstream than in a pill form.
Many midwives, medical professionals and women alike report benefits of red raspberry leaf tea in overall woman’s health and wellness, and aid in the strengthening the uterine muscles and pelvic floor in preparation for and during labor.
Red raspberry leaf tea has been commonly known to cause contractions that are beneficial to the pregnancy. All throughout pregnancy, the uterus is preparing for labor naturally by periodically contracting and relaxing. As a result, the uterine muscles and pelvic floor grow stronger. To me, its kind of like the uterus is “working out” in preparation for the big day. Many women recognize these contractions in early pregnancy as a slight feeling of menstrual cramping, or later in pregnancy commonly known as Braxton Hicks contractions, in which the pregnant woman’s belly strongly tightens, and then relaxes. These usually do not cause pain, but may be slightly uncomfortable and are naturally occurring in every woman’s pregnancy whether she notices them or not, whether she consumes red raspberry leaf or not.
Women that have consumed red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy have reported that it makes their contractions more productive during labor and less painful, resulting in shorter and more naturally progressive labors. It has actually been reported that women who consumed RRL during pregnancy very often carried to term, but also weren’t excessively overdue. This could be contributed to a stronger uterus.
Because it has been reported by some women to cause contractions, some cultural traditions encourage using red raspberry leaf to induce labor naturally. Similarly, women have been warned over that last 50+ years to avoid the herb especially early in pregnancy to avoid pre-labor contractions that could cause a miscarriage or Pre-rupture of membranes (PROM). However, studies on the herb actually being the cause of these significant issues are inconclusive.
As is with most studies conducted with herbs, it is important to remember why so many are deemed inconclusive. This is partially because of smaller study groups willing to participate, less funding and its difficult to capitalize on herbal medicines, so there is pressure not to put out studies that would support competition from alternative medicine no matter how beneficial it could be to public health. As a doula, I would encourage my clients to educate themselves first and seek providers that support a wholistic view to healthcare in order to receive the best medical advice.
Today, midwives, OB’s and medical professionals alike generally recommend the use of red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy because the nutrient benefits and general positive experiences seem strong enough to outweigh the risks. However, if you have a history of miscarriage or would rather “play it safe”, it is best to avoid the use red raspberry leaf during your first trimester or altogether. Always consult your physician first.
During my first pregnancy I was a student of my body and consumed information out of passion and interest in my health kind of for the first time. I had heard of drinking red raspberry leaf tea and the benefits during pregnancy, but the first time I made myself a cup during the second trimester I felt crampy after drinking it and I didn’t like that feeling so I put it off until the third trimester, but even then, drank it sparingly. I could have been overly sensitive to my changing body and the cramping could have had nothing to do with drinking the tea, but I’m not sure.
My first labor was completely natural and lasted about 26 hours total. After laboring at home all day we started timing them in the evening, and went into the hospital for a check when they were 3-5 minutes apart. Shortly after being in the hospital my contractions were close to 1 minute – 90 seconds apart and lasted that way for about the duration of my active labor until transition and delivery. After roughly 10 hours of active labor I was exhausted, and exhaustion combined with limitations in the hospital of where and how I could deliver, I delivered on my back which was most ineffective and took 2 hours and I tore, but I was told that’s also kind of normal for a first baby.
However my second pregnancy I was more educated, and because of my positive natural experience with my firstborn I was even more trusting of the way God made my body and my pregnancy. A natural birth is like miracle grow to you faith, it just is.
This time I decided to take my midwives recommendation of drinking 3 cups of red raspberry leaf tea each day during pregnancy starting around 20 weeks. I bought a loose leaf Fecundi blend tea from Mountain Rose Herbs, and steeped it in a french press overnight for the next morning and sipped on it all day. I drank it hot with honey or a splash of cream or just black when I was nauseous, and I also refrigerated it and drank it cold poolside or mixed it with cranberry juice, orange juice or a seltzer to make a more interesting cold beverage. I grew to love it!
I went into labor spontaneously at 40 weeks and 3 days and almost didn’t realize it. My contractions were intermittent, but on average were about 10 minutes apart and only uncomfortable- not painful yet. Being overdue, our oldest was staying with my mom for the weekend so my husband and I went out to eat, walked around a museum, and ran errands together all day without much progression of the intensity or time between the contractions. I figured this was just early labor, so we should get some rest. But as I rested, the contractions became stronger, but still spread apart. I had been communicating with my midwife throughout the day and we were waiting until the contractions got closer together before we went into the birthing center to see how far along I was. I felt worried they would send me home going in while the contractions were only 10 minutes apart, but I still felt like baby was coming soon. And I’m glad I listened to my body because when I arrived, I was already at 7 cm! I couldn’t believe how low key these contractions were compared to my first labor and was able to rest several long minutes between effective contractions.
According to my doula, the contractions I experienced during my second labor weren’t ever closer than 8 minutes apart. Which was amazing compared to hours of back to back contractions and slower progression with my first!
I wasn’t even at the birthing center for 4 hours total before I began to push in the birthing tub, and 20 minutes later she was born!
My second labor was vastly shorter and different than my first labor, which is the case for many. It could be contributed to the red raspberry leaf tea, or it could be completely separate. However, I believe good health was a good factor in this positive experience with red raspberry leaf tea, and it’s effects on the outcome of my labor and postpartum recovery.
Ultimately, you make the call mama! You’ve got this!
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