Red Raspberry Leaf During Pregnancy

Can red raspberry leaf make you go into labor sooner or soften the cervix?  When should you start taking it?  While red raspberry leaf has been used for many years, we don’t have much scientific information, mostly anecdotal.  

We do have one randomized control trial on red raspberry leaf in pregnancy.  The study included 192 first-time, low-risk mothers, and they were randomly assigned to take either raspberry leaf tablets (2.4 grams a day) or placebo tablets starting at 32 weeks until the beginning of labor. They did not find any differences between these two groups, and they did not find any adverse effects in the categories they measured. A few mother reported symptoms that are often common during pregnancy (like diarrhea and nausea), but research don’t know if these symptoms were caused by the tablets or not.  

Another study looked back at 57 women who had used red raspberry leaf during their pregnancy and compared to 51 who had not.  The doses ranged from one to eight tablets or cups of tea daily, starting anywhere from the beginning of pregnancy until 32 weeks. The researches reviewed the participants medical records and did not find any difference between these two groups.  They looked at blood loss, APGAR scores, blood pressure, NICU admission, etc.  They did not find any side effects either. Both studies used a small sample size, making it difficult to determine any differences between those who took red raspberry leaf and those who did not.  

As of right now more studies have been done on animals than humans.  One study involving rats found longer pregnancies on average and their offspring were more like to have early puberty. There were also some health problems in the offspring’s offspring as well.  The doses used were higher than humans typically use, but researches express some concern that red raspberry leaf during pregnancy may have some long-term effects.

Conclusion:  The evidence on red raspberry leaf is very weak and more research is necessary.  There were no adverse outcomes found in the two studies where they gave raspberry leaf to humans, although the sample sizes were small. There were no differences between outcomes of the mothers involved.  One animal study did find early puberty in the female offspring of the rats that were treated with raspberry leaf in very high doses and more health problems in the third generation.

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