Q&A: Is raspberry leaf tea really a pregnancy cure-all?

Like some sort of magical elixir, many pregnant women believe that raspberry leaf tea helps with everything from morning sickness to calming uterine cramping and even bringing on labour. But is it a pregnancy cure-all?

So I’ve heard lots of different things about raspberry left tea. What are the actual benefits and when are you meant to start and how much to drink?

Sammi, Mum's Grapevine Group member

Raspberry leaf tea has been credited with helping women through all trimesters of pregnancy, with claims it:

But is it all true?

Is raspberry leaf tea safe in pregnancy?

Pregnant woman drinking cup of tea

Integrative naturopath and psychotherapist Marta Browne tells Mum’s Grapevine that raspberry leaf is safe for regular use through pregnancy, but there haven’t been any large-scale human studies.

“It is generally considered safer to consume it as an infusion (tea), as the concentration of active phytochemicals is much lower than a herbal liquid extract, capsules or tablets (which can carry a higher risk of adverse effect),” Marta explains. “Dosage is extremely important when working with herbs and reducing risks of adverse effects while maximising benefits.

“Large scale human studies have not been conducted, although use of the herb has been documented throughout Europe, China and North America for centuries, with some records indicating use as early as the 1400s. There is renewed interest in herbal medicine use in recent times and a 2010 Australian study found that second stage labour was shorter and there were fewer forceps deliveries required by the women taking RLT. A 1999 study indicated that there was a slight reduction in risk of pre-term or post-term pregnancies.”

Benefits of raspberry leaf tea

According to Marta Browne, pregnant women may experience a whole host of benefits from drinking raspberry leaf tea, including:

  • An easier delivery: RLT is considered a tonic herb – that is, a herb that is neither toxic nor strongly medicinal, and provides nutrients and/or tones the uterus to support a healthy pregnancy, facilitating an easier delivery.
  • Soothing the uterus and pelvic muscles: When prepared as a tea, the nutritionally rich infusion contains Vitamins A, B complex, C and E, as well as calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Depending on where the herb was grown, magnesium and manganese may also be present. Active phytochemicals include tannins, polypeptides, alkaloids and flavinoids, resulting in astringent, stimulating and soothing properties. A specific alkaloid, fragarine, acts as a uterine relaxant and is key in toning the uterus and pelvic muscles.
  • Morning sickness, healing and labour pain: Historically, it has been used to prevent miscarriages, prevent overly overdue pregnancies, reduce prodromal labour discomfort, improve wound healing and reduce morning sickness and colic.

Have the benefits been proven?

It has been said that raspberry leaf tea can shorten labour if you drink it from 32 weeks onwards

Meghan Arthurson, a naturopath, antenatal educator and clinical midwife specialist who founded Artemisia Natural Therapies explains that one study found that raspberry leaf can shorten labour, with no identified side effects to mum or bub.

“Ingestion of Raspberry leaf may also decrease the likelihood of pre-term and post-term labour, evidenced by the smaller spread of gestation period among the Raspberry leaf group,” Meghan told Mum’s Grapevine.

“An unexpected finding appears to indicate that women who ingest raspberry leaf may be less likely to require artificial rupture of their membranes, caesarean section, forceps delivery or vacuum birth than the women in the control group. A follow-up trial of randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled design was conducted by the same research team and involved 192 women treated from 32 weeks of pregnancy to labour.

“The women in the treatment group were given 1.2g raspberry leaf twice daily. There were no adverse effects, but there also was no shortening of the first stage of labour. The second stage was shortened by 9.6 minutes. A lower rate of forceps delivery was observed in the raspberry leaf group (19.3% vs. 30.4% for control participants). The authors suggested that earlier intervention and a higher dose should be studied.”

How often can you drink raspberry leaf tea?

Marta Browne says up to three cups of infused tea per day is considered safe and effective for uterine toning effects.

“It is best to start taking the tea reasonably early, around 32 weeks or so, as starting the herb too late in the pregnancy does not give adequate time for toning effects to be established. RLT can be taken at other times to help relieve colic and ease morning sickness, although many women find the taste a bit unpleasant if they are not used to herbal infusions!”

Ask other mums-to-be if they’ve tried it

Wondering if other pregnant mums are drinking raspberry leaf tea? Join our due date pregnancy groups on Facebook and ask other mums due around the same time as you if they’ve noticed any benefits.

Click and find your group today.

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