This article was last updated: June 2020
Red raspberry leaf tea (Rubus idaeus) is an herbal beverage cultivated from the leaves of red raspberries.
Note: It should not be confused with raspberry fruit tea, which is made from the fruit, rather than the leaf. For more on raspberries (the fruit) during pregnancy, see my other article here.
Red raspberry leaf has long been used for both its fragrant flavor and as a means to ease the labor process.
Uterine stimulants (even a simple tea) are not something to be taken lightly, as the herb’s general safety and exact use for pregnancy are also important factors to keep in mind.
This article has been put together as an ultimate guide to red raspberry tea and pregnancy, addressing many common questions, and using evidence-based answers.
Is Red Raspberry Tea Good During Pregnancy? The Evidence
You may have arrived at this article wanting to know what all the fuss is about over red raspberry leaf tea. Why is it good during pregnancy? Does it even work?
Red raspberry leaf tea and its uses in pregnancy go back centuries, and a recent study found that 63% of midwives in the US recommend it for easing labor (source: Science Direct / Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health).
One issue with it being around so long is that some of the science dates back to the 1940s or even earlier, and most older studies were animal trials.
However, more recent human trials have been conducted and show promising, but not conclusive results:
- A small retrospective study in Australia suggested that women who consumed red raspberry leaf tea had shortened labor, and were less likely to require a C-Section, forceps or other interventions during birth (source: Australian College of Midwives)
- Another small-scale study found that only the second, rather than first stage of labor was possibly shortened by consuming red raspberry leaf in tablet form, and that women taking the tablets seemed less likely to require a forceps delivery (source: Journal of Midwifery)
- Red Raspberry leaf tea is rich in a compound called fragrine, which helps to tone the uterus, modulate contractions and possibly prevent pre-term (premature) birth (source: PMC)
The above studies are the ones most often quoted in suggesting the use of red raspberry tea during pregnancy.
One thing that many of the studies have in common is that they reiterate that more research is needed, and nothing is yet conclusive.
The Journal of Complementary Medicines in Clinical Practise reviewed all the available evidence as of 2009 and again pointed out that much of the science was old, and that there was still a “lack of evidence” (source: JCMP).
What does this mean for YOUR pregnancy? The short answer is that the benefits of red raspberry leaf are suggested, but not proven. Anecdotally, the herb seems to help a lot of women towards the end of the pregnancy, so you may decide that you also want to try it out.
If you want to start taking red raspberry leaf during pregnancy, then you should consult your healthcare provider first. As I’ve already mentioned, the tea is often recommended by midwives and other medical professionals, where pregnant women are under their direct supervision.
If you are given the go-ahead that you can try red raspberry leaf, then it’s important to stick to dosages and timings that have, so far, been used in clinical trials, and that are generally accepted as safe.
These are also detailed in this article for general information, though you should always follow the advice and dosage given by your healthcare provider, ob/gyn or midwife.
Is Red Raspberry Tea Safe During Pregnancy?
Owing to the lack of definitive studies, you may have wondered if red raspberry leaf tea is definitely safe to take your pregnancy.
The general consensus is that red raspberry leaf is likely safe if the tea is consumed in the recommended final month of pregnancy (sources: Integrative Medicine, WebMD and the American Pregnancy Association).
This isn’t to say that the tea is harmful during the entire pregnancy; however, there are some potential side effects that could occur.
There are no confirmed cause-effect studies on miscarriage and red raspberry leaf tea, however, it’s a sensible precaution to avoid taking red raspberry leaf in the first trimester, owing to the fact that the tea is a known uterine stimulant.
The more likely potential side effects are increased urination and diarrhea (source: NHS).
In summary, there have been no consistent scientific reports to confirm that the tea is unsafe for expectant mothers. With this in mind, maximum dosages of the tea should be saved for the final 4-5 weeks of pregnancy and avoided during early pregnancy.
Who Should Avoid Taking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea When Pregnant?
According to the UK’s National Health Service, there are a few scenarios where you should avoid red raspberry leaf tea completely, no matter which stage of pregnancy you’re at. These are:
- If you’re planning to have a C-section.
- If you’ve had a C-section in the past.
- If you’re expecting twins.
- If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, fibroids, or endometriosis.
- If you have had a premature labor in the past.
- If you have had a previous labor that lasted less than three hours.
- If you have had vaginal bleeding during the second half of the pregnancy.
In addition, the Royal College of Midwives note that red raspberry leaf should be avoided if you are taking any of the following medications, as it may interfere with absorption:
- Pseudo-Ephedrine or Ephedrine
Source: Royal College of Midwives
Can I Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea in Early Pregnancy / The First Trimester?
Red raspberry leaf tea has sometimes been used in the past to combat morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy (source: Science Direct).
However, this is anecdotal and not proven. Current medical advice generally suggests that pregnant women should avoid taking red raspberry leaf tea (or tablets) in early pregnancy (source: NHS).
At present, there are no medical or scientific recommendations on drinking the tea in the first trimester, or early pregnancy.
If you’re suffering from nausea or morning sickness, there are other remedies that are safer, including ginger tea and other products made specifically with pregnant women in mind (I list some of them here).
When To Start Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea During Pregnancy
Because red raspberry leaf tea is such a popular natural pregnancy aid, the timing of when you should start drinking it during pregnancy is a frequently asked question.
Research suggests that red raspberry leaf tea should be consumed later in pregnancy, from the 32-week mark.
Some women choose to drink it earlier towards the end of the second trimester, but it’s generally accepted that most women benefit from drinking red raspberry leaf tea in the last (third) trimester.
You should immediately stop drinking the tea if you have any adverse side effects (covered earlier in this article).
How Much Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Should I Take During Pregnancy?
Dosage can vary depending on if you drink it as tea or take tablets, capsules or supplements of red raspberry leaf tea.
The table below shows the most common preparations and the source(s). Unless otherwise specified, this is for women wishing to start taking red raspberry leaf products at the 32-week mark in pregnancy.
Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting to take any complementary medicine like herbal tea.
|Hot tea (standard 250ml cup)||Approximately 2g loose tea per cup. Many tea bags fall within this range. |
Start with one cup a day at 32 weeks, increasing to a maximum of 3.
|European Medicines Agency, NHS, Royal College of Midwives|
|Iced Tea||As above, but can drink as iced tea or cubes||Suggested by an NHS article|
|Tablets / Supplements / Capsules||2 x 1.2g tablets daily, or 2 x 400mg three times a day, from 32 weeks’ gestation||Journal of Midwifery and Royal College of Midwives|
Does Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Induce Labor?
For centuries, red raspberry leaf tea has been thought to help induce labor due to the herb’s ability to tone the muscles within the uterus, thereby making contractions much more durable and efficient during the labor process.
While the jury is still out on whether this tea can actually induce labor, studies suggest that red raspberry leaf tea may shorten the labor process.
According to the European Medicines Agency, red raspberry leaf tea makes the labor process shorter through uterine stimulation, as well as increased-relaxation of the uterus after increased exertion.
A small study in Australia suggested that only the second, rather than the first stage of labor was shortened, by an average of around nine and a half minutes (source: Wiley).
More studies are needed to see if there are any definite effects on either inducing labor or shortening it by taking red raspberry leaf.
What Are the Benefits of Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea When Pregnant?
In addition to the aforementioned benefits of strengthening the uterus to make labor contractions easier, red raspberry leaf tea has also shown to produce other potential benefits during pregnancy. These include:
- Antioxidants. Red raspberry leaf tea contains a high level of antioxidants, and also contains numerous vitamins and minerals that will help keep you and your baby healthy. These include vitamin C, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron (source: Antioxidants Journal)
- Anti-nausea benefits. Red raspberry leaf tea may help to ease nausea and vomiting in the first trimester of pregnancy, but it’s not recommended to take it in early pregnancy. If you experience nausea later in pregnancy, in the third trimester, you may try it both for its purported benefits, and to see if it helps with your nausea (source: Science Direct).
- Iron content – Red Raspberry leaves can contribute to your iron intake during pregnancy, as they contain easily-absorbed organic iron (source: Royal College of Midwives).
Red raspberry leaf tea potentially provides numerous benefits to pregnant women. However, benefits like its iron content and anti-nausea properties can be had from other, safer sources, such as eating leafy greens for iron, or ginger for nausea.
Can Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Help You Get Pregnant?
The scientific evidence on red raspberry leaf tea’s effectiveness in helping with conception is mixed at best.
On the one hand, this tea is loaded with antioxidants, which are beneficial for the uterus (source: EMA). However, the tea will not necessarily help the conception process based on uterine strengthening alone.
There isn’t a proven direct link between red raspberry leaf tea and increased fertility yet.
Indeed, a 2010 experiment tested on both pregnant and nonpregnant rats showed that the consumption of the tea in nonpregnant rats had very little noticeable change in terms of a rat’s ability to conceive (source: Society for Reproductive Investigation).
For now, the only limited scientific trials have been focused on taking the tea during pregnancy, rather than to get pregnant. There is, as yet, no evidence to suggest that red raspberry leaf tea can help you get pregnant.
Which is the Best Brand of Raspberry Leaf Tea for Pregnancy?
There’s sometimes a lot of confusion about what the best red raspberry leaf tea is. It’s not the same as raspberry fruit tea, and it’s sometimes included in blends that contain other ingredients that aren’t recommended during pregnancy.
The best two brands I’ve found are both available on Amazon. Higher quality tea bags are made by Traditional Medicinals, which are 100% organic red raspberry leaf tea, and a good loose leaf option is produced by Micro Ingredients, which is of a very high quality.
If you don’t want to buy it online or just want to get some from your local store, some things to look out for when choosing red raspberry leaf tea brands are:
- Choose organic where possible, or ones labeled pesticide-free
- Look for 100% “red raspberry leaf” as the ingredient – a quality tea will only have this, and NOT other ingredients or flavorings
- Something that is “100% natural” doesn’t always mean it’s 100% red raspberry leaf
- Avoid any blends made with hibiscus, as this may need to be avoided in pregnancy – you can read more about hibiscus safety in pregnancy here
Can I Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Postpartum?
Red raspberry leaf also has a reputation for easing postpartum bleeding, and possibly being beneficial during breastfeeding (source: PubMed).
The Drugs and Lactation Database states that there are no scientifically valid trials on the safety of taking red raspberry leaf postpartum (source: NCBI).
A very small trial is mentioned where women in Turkey were given either a placebo or a herbal tea that contained several herbs, including red raspberry leaf.
The women given the tea produced more breast milk, but since the tea contained several ingredients, any single herb – including red raspberry leaf – could not be pinpointed as the cause (source: PubMed).
Since the information and science on red raspberry leaf and postpartum/breastfeeding is even more limited than the evidence available about it during pregnancy, it’s generally advised that red raspberry leaf should be avoided postpartum, to be on the safe side.
Conclusion & Summary
There’s a lot to think about when deciding whether to take red raspberry leaf, so here’s a summary of the evidence presented in this article:
- There is no evidence (yet) to suggest that red raspberry leaf will help you conceive
- If you decide to drink red raspberry tea during pregnancy or take it in tablets, capsules or supplements, this should be under the supervision of your healthcare provider, rather than ‘self-medication’.
- On the whole, it’s recommended that women avoid taking red raspberry leaf tea in early pregnancy and particularly the first trimester
- It is generally accepted as safe to take in the third trimester, at the 32-week mark onwards, in safe doses as suggested by a medical professional, and with a gradual build-up
- There is no evidence to suggest that it has definite benefits for breastfeeding or postpartum at this point in time
Overall, there seem to be some positive benefits for some women who take red raspberry leaf tea, but like all unregulated herbs or food supplements, it should be approached with caution during pregnancy.
If new evidence or trials come to light, rest assured this article will be updated with the latest information.
If you’re interested in other drinks you can try during pregnancy, you may also like:
- Ten drinks pregnant women can enjoy, besides water
- A guide to why you should avoid hibiscus tea
- Whether lemon balm tea is safe during pregnancy
- A guide to drinking rosehip tea (and if you should)
- How much Jasmine tea is safe, and how much caffeine it contains
This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.