Is Raspberry Leaf Tea Safe To Drink During Pregnancy?
Experts agree that more research is needed.
It’s no secret that there are two times people will try just about anything to achieve the desired outcome: when trying to conceive and when trying to induce labor. If you’re considering drinking red raspberry leaf tea for pregnancy — whether before for fertility’s sake or when you’re ready to evict that sweet little babe — there are some important factors to consider.
What is red raspberry leaf tea?
Red raspberry leaf tea is an herbal tea made from dried raspberry plant leaves, often touted for its ability to increase fertility, kickstart labor, and ease pregnancy pains. The leaf itself contains a small amount of nutrients including potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It also contains a number of antioxidants called polyphenols (namely tannins and flavonoids), as evidenced in a 2016 study of berry leaf plant biological properties. This is where the notion that red raspberry leaf tea can be beneficial as a health supplement comes from.
Despite the name, red raspberry leaf tea does not actually taste like fresh raspberries — to me, the tea’s earthy flavor tastes more like plain black tea. You can usually find sachets of red raspberry leaf tea on the tea aisle in the grocery store, as well as in specialty tea shops and online in loose leaf form.
Raspberry leaf tea and fertility
If you’ve seen an article or five online touting the benefits of raspberry leaf tea for enhancing fertility, you’re not alone in wondering whether or not there’s some truth to the claims.
“There is some information floating out there about raspberry leaf tea ‘priming’ the uterus, increasing blood supply to uterus, etc. and this could make a more favorable uterus for achieving pregnancy,” Dr. Crystal Berry-Roberts, a board-certified OB-GYN at Austin Regional Clinic explains. However, Berry-Roberts takes care to note that these claims are “not scientifically substantiated or proven to be true.”
Though Berry-Roberts notes that red raspberry leaf tea’s ability to kickstart labor is not yet definitively proven (more on this below), she says that the tea “should be avoided in early pregnancy or while preterm (before 37 weeks) because of the potential effect of softening the cervix and inducing labor.”
Raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy
So, is it safe to drink red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy? “The safety of herbal supplements in general is not something regulated by the FDA and therefore the ‘safety’ of raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy is unclear,” Berry-Roberts says. “We do not have substantiated, evidence-based data to answer this question definitively.”
“Studies are limited on this topic,” Dr. Megan Pallister, a practicing OB-GYN in Houston and Lansinoh Clinical Advisory Network member explains. In fact, the most recent study available online on the topic of raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy is a survey from 2022 that included just 121 participants. So while the risks remain decidedly unclear due to a lack of available research, Pallister says, “There do not seem to be any major risks in the small studies we do have.”
For as little as is known about the risks and benefits of drinking red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, the physicians Romper spoke to about the topic don’t completely disregard the supplement’s potential. “There is no strong evidence or support for raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, but it is possible it could help strengthen uterine tone and decrease hemorrhage,” Pallister says.
Dr. Daniel Roshan, a board-certified OB-GYN with Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine likewise notes the lack of research around the topic, and reiterates that “there are no official studies that back up the benefits of red raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy or labor.” However, Roshan also acknowledges the tea’s widespread use. “It has been recommended by OBs and OB practitioners for many years as a supplement that can help shorten the length of labor and those risks associated with long/prolonged labors,” he says.
Can raspberry leaf tea kickstart labor?
“It is possible that raspberry leaf tea can cause changes with the uterus that can positively impact labor, but again, this is uncertain,” Berry-Roberts explains.
According to Roshan, while drinking red raspberry leaf tea may not actually “kickstart” labor, it might make labor easier in a sense. Roshan explains that the tea is thought to soften the cervix, “so that when contractions begin, the soft tissue dilates more easily and expedites labor.”
If you’re in the mood to brew a cup in the hope that it will help you through labor, it’s important to understand the risks involved. “When considering herbal and other teas, it is important to remember the concentration of these teas and supplements is not regulated by any governing body. So you will be assuming the risks of non-regulated supplements if you choose to use red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy,” Roshan says. “It is considered mostly safe, and some practitioners believe it does have a positive impact on cervical ripening, leading to shorter labors.”
So, if you choose to drink red raspberry tea during pregnancy, how much should you drink and when? Roshan explains that one to two cups daily after 36 to 37 weeks gestation is a typical amount to consume, but should be discussed with your physician.
The choice of whether or not to drink red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy is truly up to you and deserves a thorough chat with your doctor. Understanding that the supplement is something pregnant folks want to know more about, Pallister says it best: “More research on this topic is definitely needed!”
Ferlemi, A.-V., & Lamari, F. N. (2016, June 1). Berry leaves: An alternative source of bioactive natural products of nutritional and medicinal value. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland).
K;, F. S. B. (n.d.). Survey of raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy. The Australian & New Zealand journal of obstetrics & gynaecology.
Crystal Berry-Roberts, M.D., MBA, FACOG, board-certified OB-GYN at Austin Regional Clinic
Daniel Roshan, M.D., FACOG, FACS, a board-certified OB-GYN with Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine
Megan Pallister, MD, FAGOC, Lansinoh Clinical Advisory Network Member