Raspberry leaf tea occasionally comes up in discussions with mums about labour and induction of (starting) labour. What is the big deal about raspberry leaf tea and will it really help you? Read on to find out.
First, a bit of biology. Try not to zone out, I promise to keep it simple and it will help you understand how raspberry leaf tea makes a difference.
The physiology bit
Your uterus is a muscle. As a muscle it is made up of lots of little muscle cells which all work together to contract. The muscle cells in the uterus need to work together to contract in a wave and help make the space inside your uterus smaller. This wave pushes baby down towards the exit.
The important point is that the muscle cells need to work together in a coordinated way. Think of a person trying to start a Mexican wave in a football stadium. If one guy on one side waves, but no one else around him does, no big wave happens. If two guys on either side try waving but aren’t looking at each other and those around them, you still won’t get a good wave.
A good stadium wave needs communication between everyone in the stadium. Everyone needs to be watching and they need to join in at the same time as those around them. When each person is watching those around them and moving in time with them, the wave moves efficiently around the stadium.
The same needs to happen with your uterine muscle cells. They need to work together and communicate with each other so that they coordinate their contraction with the cells next to them. This makes stronger and more effective contractions.
How does raspberry leaf tea help?
The amazing thing that scientists have discovered in recent years it that raspberry leaf tea seems to help your muscle cells communicate. Studies show that drinking raspberry leaf tea increases the number of gap junctions in your muscle cells.
Gap junctions are the communication channels between the cells. They spread messages from one cell to the next. Messages like ‘I’m contracting now. So should you!’. You already have gap junctions in your uterine muscles. The more gap junctions you have, the better the messages pass from one cell to the next. This may make a difference to improve the waves of contractions in your uterus.
Bring on the tea drinking!
The optimum time to start drinking raspberry leaf tea seems to be from about 34 or 35 weeks. This gives time for the gap junctions to develop ready for the end of pregnancy between 37 and 42 weeks.
Just one glass of raspberry leaf tea per day will make a difference. There is no need to drink 15 cups per day unless you really like it! Most women stick to a maximum of 3 cups per day. If you don’t like the taste of the tea, you can buy raspberry leaf tea capsules instead.
If you get any side effects, such as strong Braxton Hicks contractions, bleeding or nausea, please contact your local maternity services provider straight away!
Please be careful when using herbal remedies. Because they are not regulated in the same way as other medicines, the quality and concentration of the tea can vary between brands and between batches.
In conclusion, there may be a small benefit to drinking raspberry leaf tea towards the end of your pregnancy. However, the benefit seems to be in the coordination and efficiency of your contractions, not in making labour happen sooner. If you do not drink the tea, your body can and will still be able to go into labour, have contractions and deliver baby. It’s designed to do so, so trust it!
For more tips and tricks on making labour happen and coping when it does, have a look at the other articles on this site here.