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Yelena Moroz
Contributing Writer

How Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Can Help You Through Pregnancy and Labor

From how you make it to how it helps, consider this your guide to the tea some moms-to-be swear by.

Could drinking tea (for two) help you mitigate the last stages of pregnancy and labor? Red raspberry leaf tea benefits are often associated with “womb wellness” and its therapeutic uses have been recorded as far back as the sixth century—yet the verdict on whether it really works as a pregnancy facilitator—particularly for its uterus toning benefits and as a labor catalyst—is still out. Midwives, ob-gyns and plenty of plenty of women have all sorts of opinions on whether drinking red raspberry leaf tea benefits the pregnancy. Some are tea cheerleaders (a toned uterus!) while others caution about red raspberry leaf tea side-effects (intense Braxton Hicks contractions!). We did some research and here is what you need to know before you sit down for a cup of red raspberry leaf tea while pregnant.

What Is Red Raspberry Leaf Tea?

Red raspberry leaf is exactly what you would think it is—the leaf from the red raspberry bush. (Not to be confused with red raspberry tea: This is black tea with raspberry flavoring.) The leaves are harvested in the spring time, before the plant blooms, then dried and grinded to make a tisane, or an herbal tea. “It tastes nothing like raspberries, and doesn’t resemble a berry flavor at all,” says Cindy Collins, certified herbalist and founder of Euphoric Herbals . Some describe it as a variation on black tea, so you might want to add sugar or honey to balance out the flavor. “It pairs well with spearmint, hibiscus and lemon balm leaf,” Collins says. You can serve it hot or iced, or as an herbal infusion, if you let it steep at room temperature for one to four hours.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Benefits: During Pregnancy

One of the reasons red raspberry leaf is considered helpful is because it’s rich in immune-boosting nutrients. “It provides B vitamins, iron, niacin, manganese, magnesium, selenium, vitamin A and astringent alkaloids that nourish and contribute to the healing process,” says Eden Fromberg, MD, board-certified ob-gyn and medical director at Holistic Gynecology in New York City.

While there are no official recommendations on the books, midwives may recommend starting with a cup a day around 32 weeks, then gradually increasing to three cups as you approach your due date. Potential benefits of regular consumption range from preventing pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and preterm labor to postpartum hemorrhage. Plus, it’s been said to start preparing your body for labor.

“Women through the centuries have believed in red raspberry leaf tea as a softening agent in helping prepare the cervix and the uterus,” says Ginger Breedlove, CNM, principal consultant at Grow Midwives in Kansas City, Mo.

Keep in mind: as there are no official recommendations regarding the dose or the ideal trimester to start sipping, discussing red raspberry leaf tea side effects with your OB or midwife is a smart move.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Benefits: During Labor

While scientific research is extremely limited regarding the ability of red raspberry leaf tea to induce labor, one study reflects on why some midwives and herbalists recommend this uterine tonic. Research published in the 2001 Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health demonstrated that when healthy women ingested raspberry leaf (in tablet form) at 32 weeks gestation through labor, there were no negative effects on mom or baby. What’s more, they found that the second stage of labor was shortened by about 10 minutes, and and there was a lower rate of forceps deliveries between the treatment group and the control group (19.3 percent versus 30.4 percent).

If you’re getting antsy and want to meet your baby, however, put down the teapot—downing cups of red raspberry leaf tea to induce labor should not be your go-to strategy.

“There are many different complex biological processes happening in concert that help labor start,” says Margaret Buxton CNM, a Nashville-based regional clinical director at Baby+Co birth centers. “While drinking red raspberry leaf may be relaxing, it has not been proven to induce labor. We encourage hydrating in labor with water and other beverages that replace electrolytes and restore energy to the body. Once in labor, the body's powerful birth hormones control the pace of the labor.”

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Side Effects

Even though the American Pregnancy Association states that red raspberry leaf tea is “likely safe” during pregnancy, you should sip with caution since tea manufacturers don’t have to get Food and Drug Administration approval. Here are some possible red raspberry leaf tea side effects, especially if consumed in large amounts:

Nausea
Diarrhea
Onset of Braxton Hicks contractions
Decreased insulin response. “It is not recommended if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes,” Buxton says.

If any condition classifies your pregnancy as high-risk, Breedlove says red raspberry leaf tea is not for you. This can include a previous preterm labor or birth, vaginal bleeding in the second half of pregnancy, multiples, a repeat c-section, or any medical complications with your current pregnancy.

Where to Buy Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Should you choose to drink red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, you’re in luck, as it’s readily available online , in health food stores and most grocery stores. You’ll also have plenty to choose from: Traditional Medicinals , Yogi Teas and The Republic of Tea all have red raspberry leaf options. Even better news: “There is no current proof that one brand is better than another,” Buxton says.

Published March 2018

PHOTO: Anton Petrus / Getty Images