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Raspberry leaf tea has been used for centuries to support women’s health, including menstruation and childbirth.  People believe it: 

  • Reduces PMS symptoms, including cramps, nausea, and diarrhoea
  • Eases labour pains
  • Tones the muscles of the uterus, creating more effective contractions
  • Reduces postbirth bleeding.

However, there is very little clinical evidence to support these beliefs, as we will discuss shortly.

What is raspberry leaf tea? 

Raspberry leaf tea is not to be confused with raspberry fruit tea! It is made from the leaves of the raspberry plant rather than the raspberries themselves. As such, it doesn’t taste raspberries. In fact, it’s more similar to black tea. 

If you don’t like the taste of raspberry leaf tea, you can opt for capsules instead, although they may be less effective. Whether you buy the tea or capsules, it is always worth checking the ingredients as cheaper brands may be less pure.

What are the benefits? 

The leaves are highly nutritious. They contain high levels of

What does the research say? 

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that there is very little research into the use and effectiveness of raspberry leaf tea; there is only one human randomised controlled trial (RCT) to date, with most studies being observational or animal studies.

RCT’s are the gold standard of research. They test two (or more) groups – one with the intervention, the other ‘control’ group with a placebo. Neither the scientists nor participants know who is in which group, reducing the chance of bias. 

Random controlled trail – Simpson et al (2001)

The study included 192 first time mums with uncomplicated pregnancies. Ninety-six women were given two doses (1.2g per dose) of raspberry leaf tea in tablet form each day from 32 weeks in pregnancy. The control group (also 96 women) was given a placebo instead. 

Simpson et al. measured a lot of different things in the trial and found no difference between the two groups in: 

  • Adverse side effects.
  • Gestation of pregnancy.
  • Frequency of induction of labour.
  • The number of women who had their waters broken artificially.
  • Meconium in amniotic fluid.
  • The use of pharmaceutical pain relief, including epidurals.
  • Whether women had a vaginal or caesarean section birth.
  • Maternal blood loss.
  • Maternal blood pressure.
  • Neonatal birth weight.
  • APGAR scores (test of a baby’s wellbeing after birth).

A couple of clinically interesting results need further study, as the sample size was so small they weren’t statistically significant. Those in the group given raspberry leaf tea: 

  • On average, the second stage of labour was 9.59 minutes shorter than the control group. 
  • Fewer women needed assistance to give birth to their baby with forceps – 19.3% compared to 30.4% in the control group. 

However, as mentioned, there are limitations to this study. Firstly, the sample size was very small – only 96 women received raspberry leaf tea. Secondly, they took less than the recommended dose of raspberry leaf tea – 2.4g, rather than 4g.  

Case study – Cheang et al. (2016)

This study looked at the effect of raspberry leaf tea on blood sugar levels and gestational diabetes. The case study involved a 38-year-old woman with gestational diabetes in her first pregnancy. She developed hypoglycaemia after drinking raspberry leaf tea twice a day for three days at 32 weeks and as a result, needed a lower insulin dose.

Exploring the relationship between the raspberry leaf tea and the drop in blood sugar levels, they found her blood sugar rose when she didn’t drink any of the tea and fell when she started drinking it again. Therefore they believe, drinking raspberry leaf tea may lower blood sugar levels. They concluded that pregnant women with diabetes or gestational diabetes might need less insulin to manage the condition. Whilst this is useful, it is worth remembering there is only one woman included in this case study, so we can’t really apply it to the broader population without further research. 

That said, pregnant women with diabetes or gestational diabetes should use raspberry leaf tea with caution. If you have diabetes or gestational diabetes, please do speak to your midwife or doctor before taking raspberry leaf tea, so they can work with you to manage your blood sugar levels effectively. It may help you avoid hypoglycaemic episodes, leading to dizziness and fainting, amongst other things. 

How to take raspberry leaf tea

So, we know that women have been taking raspberry leaf tea for centuries. Whilst modern research doesn’t prove its efficacy, it also hasn’t highlighted any adverse reactions. So whilst a health professional may not recommend it, for this reason, should you decide to use it during your pregnancy, there are a few guidelines to consider. 

Start slowly

It takes several weeks to build up in your body, so start taking it from 32 weeks – not before. If you take it in your first trimester, it may cause miscarriage. 

Start by drinking one cup a day and gradually increase to three cups. If you experience strong Braxton Hicks contractions, reduce the amount you’re taking. If you have any concerns, contact your midwife.

Don’t use it to kickstart your labour! 

If you are overdue and looking for natural ways to bring on labour, do not turn to raspberry leaf tea. As mentioned, it takes time to build up in your body and taking too much in one go may cause very intense contractions, which your baby may not cope with very well.

Either start taking it earlier or explore alternative ways to induce your labour, including: 

  • Gentle exercises, such as walking or yoga
  • Sex or nipple stimulation
  • Oxytocin-boosting activities.

Use it in early labour

If you have been drinking raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, you can continue using it during early labour in small quantities. Take sips of tea or freeze ice cubes to suck on if that suits you better. 

The only caveat is if you have an induction booked at the hospital. In this case, it’s not advisable to take it for the same reason mentioned above; it may cause your contractions to be too intense and impact your baby.

Be aware of reported side effects

Women who take raspberry leaf tea have reported side effects such as, 

  • Nausea
  • Loose stools
  • Need to urinate more frequently 
  • Braxton Hicks contractions

Researchers could not prove a direct link between these side effects and raspberry leaf tea, as pregnant women commonly experience them. But anecdotal evidence may be a helpful tool in your decision-making.

Avoid using it if

You have: 

  • Any pregnancy complications or health conditions, including high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia 
  • A family history of breast or ovarian cancer, endometriosis or fibroids
  • A low-lying placenta (placenta praevia)
  • Had a caesarean within the last two years or have any uterine scarring
  • Experienced premature birth previously
  • Had any vaginal bleeding in the second half of your pregnancy.

You are: 

  • Expecting more than one baby
  • Planning to have a caesarean section.

Also if your baby is in a breech position.

Are you taking any other medications? 

Herbal remedies can contain powerful active ingredients. The issue is we don’t always know how they will react with other medications. As already discussed, Cheang et al. (2016) found that people with diabetes may need to take less insulin if they are consuming raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy. 

If you take any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs, speak to your doctor or midwife before taking raspberry leaf tea. The advice is to avoid taking it as it may impact the effectiveness of these drugs: 

  • Metformin
  • Antidepressants
  • Codeine
  • Ephedrine
  • Pseudo-ephedrine
  • Aminophylline

So to summarise, a raspberry leaf tea is generally considered to be safe to take during pregnancy. There is no research to substantiate the claims it tones the uterus and will help you during labour, but it has been used for centuries by women for this purpose. If you do decide to start taking it, we recommend you speak to your midwife first.   

 

References

Bowman, R., Taylor, J., Muggleton, S. et al. (2021) Biophysical effects, safety and efficacy of raspberry leaf use in pregnancy: a systematic integrative review. BMC Complement Med Ther 21, 56 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-021-03230-4. Source.

Anna Burgess, Pharmacist Team Leader (Medicines Advice), Is it safe to take herbal medicines during pregnancy, Welsh Medicines Information Centre· Source UKMi· Published 16 May 2019. Source: [accessed November 2021]

Cheang KI, Nguyen TT, Karjane NW, Salley KES. (2016) Raspberry Leaf and Hypoglycemia in Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Dec;128(6):1421-1424. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001757. PMID: 27824754.  Source.

Ferguson, P (2009) Raspberry leaves turning over a new leaf for pregnancy. Midwives magazine: February/March 2009. Source:  [accessed November 2021]

Ferlemi AV, Lamari FN. Berry Leaves: An Alternative Source of Bioactive Natural Products of Nutritional and Medicinal Value. Antioxidants (Basel). 2016;5(2):17. Published 2016 Jun 1. doi:10.3390/antiox5020017. Source.

Simpson M, Parsons M, Greenwood J, Wade K. (2001) Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2001 Mar-Apr;46(2):51-9. doi: 10.1016/s1526-9523(01)00095-2. PMID: 11370690. Source.

Tiran, D. Raspberry leaf tea, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. Source: [accessed November 2021]

Tran, D (2014) Raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy: Information for mums-to-be, Expectancy. Source: [accessed November 2021]

 

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