At 32 weeks of pregnancy my eldest daughter was involved in a car accident, she escaped with just little scratches from broken glass but was taken to hospital where it was found that her blood pressure had gone up for the first time ever and she was admitted. She’s been in and out of hospital like a yoyo since then and is now just over 38 weeks,she was started on anti-hypertensive medication last week. Naturally, I would have loved to have been able to suggest a herbal remedy but was too scared to suggest anything during pregnancy.
I took my daughter to her hospital appointment today, her blood pressure is now OK with the medication but the registrar does not want her to go over her due date with this history so it looks like she will be induced if baby hasn’t appeared by November 5th. In the meantime, the registrar said, drink raspberry leaf tea. I was of course really interested by this and wanted to know why. The registrar said there was no research, a bit of an old wives tale that it brings on labour and it was worth a try. As it’s not the time of year to go leaf picking we went straight to the nearest health food store to get some raspberry leaf tea bags. The box told us what was in it and who had made the tea bags and nothing more and the shop assistant was unable to tell us how many cups of tea a day she should be drinking. They also stocked tablets, standardised extract with a dose written on the box so my daughter chose those.
My interest in raspberry leaf tea was aroused, does it really bring on labour and how much should a pregnant woman be drinking?
Red raspberry leaf comes from the fruiting raspberry plant which is a member of the rose family. It's best known use is preparing mothers for childbirth. The leaves are best harvested in spring and summer. I have read an article by Susun Weed,Herbal Allies For Pregnancy Problems, which beautifully describes how the mother to be can harvest her own herb if able; “stretching, bending, breathing, moving, touching the earth, taking time to talk with the plants and to open herself to their spiritual world”. How wonderful to see how beneficial the act of harvesting and preparing the herbs can be, it’s something I always love to do.
Raspberry leaf tea seems to tone the uterus which helps in labour and may shorten the second stage of labour. From reading it seems that raspberry leaf does not actually bring on labour and it takes a few weeks to build up in your system.
The Baby Centre say that some doctors and midwives think our bodies are designed adequately for birth and that nothing should be taken that could interfere with labour. Yoga Birth says that herbs have been used throughout history to help with childbirth and that “these ancient healing plants are a powerful part of our heritage from the earth”.
An alkaloid called fragrine is the chemical in red raspberry leaf which tones the smooth muscle of the uterus to help it perform well during childbirth. The leaf also contains vitamins and minerals which are a tonic to us all, including pregnant moms to be. It contains vitamins A, B, C and E with minerals including calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium.
Susun Weed gives the benefits of red raspberry leaf before and during pregnancy as:
· Improving fertility in men and women, take with red clover.
· Preventing miscarriage and haemorrhage by toning the uterus.
· Eases morning sickness
· Reduces pain during labour as the muscles are more toned.
· Assists in the production of, and enriches breast milk.
· Allows the uterus to function better to give an easier and speedier birth.
Yoga Birth has an answer to my question about the dose of raspberry leaf tea; early in pregnancy have one cup a day; two cups a day in the second trimester and three cups a day if you start in the last trimester as my daughter has. Richard Mabey in The New Age Herbalist says raspberry leaf tea can be taken in the last three months of pregnancy.
A reported problem with raspberry leaf tea is that it inceases the frequency or intensity of Brackston Hicks contractions, if this is suspected stop taking the tea.