Bitter Gourd (Karela) During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

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Also known as Momordica charantia, bitter melon, karela, kakarakaya, and hagala, bitter gourd is commonly eaten in many parts of Southeast Asia. But should you include this vegetable in your pregnancy diet?

If you love the bitterness of this vegetable and want to have it during pregnancy, then read on. MomJunction tells you if you should eat it, and what happens if you do.

Is Bitter Gourd Safe During Pregnancy?

Research studies on the effects of bitter gourd during pregnancy have come up with mixed outcomes. For instance, one study states that water extract and ethanol of the fruit and leaf are safe to consume during pregnancy. But it also mentions that the seeds and roots are known to work as a weak uterine stimulant (1). The study also adds that bitter gourd should be avoided by women trying to become pregnant.

There is no evidence to say that pregnant women can benefit by eating bitter gourd. Similarly, there is also no conclusive evidence that links the vegetable directly with gestational complications. It may not be harmful to eat bitter gourd occasionally and in moderate quantity, but it is good to consult your doctor before consuming the vegetable during pregnancy.

Risks Of Eating Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy

Did the doctor tell you not to eat bitter melon during pregnancy? Then they might have considered these risks.

  1. Digestive problems: Over consumption can cause diarrhea, bloating, gas and abdominal cramps. Some people are also sensitive to bitter gourd seeds (2).
  1. Toxicity: Bitter gourd contains hepatotoxins, which can cause toxicity in some people. (3). The seeds of bitter gourd are surrounded by toxic red arils (2).
  1. Risk of miscarriage: According to the International Journal of Scientific Research and Reviews, excessive consumption of bitter melon can disturb the uterus and lead to early labor or miscarriage. Also, the bitter taste of the vegetable can create pulsations in the tummy and womb (4).

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is it safe to drink bitter gourd juice during pregnancy?

According to the International Journal of Scientific Research and Reviews, drinking bitter gourd juice might induce contractions. It could even cause bleeding during pregnancy (4).

2. Are bitter gourd seeds edible?

You should avoid bitter gourd seeds during pregnancy, especially if you have a G6PD (Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) deficiency. The seeds contain a chemical known as vicine that could lead to favism in those having the G6PD deficiency. It is known to cause anemia, fever, headache, stomach pain and can also lead to coma in some (5).

Several studies on animals have indicated that bitter gourd may not be good for pregnant women. It is best to avoid overeating it during pregnancy since there is no evidence substantiating the safety or dangers of it. You may consume fruits and vegetables that are completely safe and even nutritious for you and your baby.

Did your doctor tell you about bitter gourd during pregnancy? Let us know in the comment section below.


1. S U Rakesh, P R Patil, and V R Salunkhe; Momordica Charantia Linn – A Comprehensive Review (2009)
2. Bitter Melon; University of Colorado Denver
3. K. H. Tennekoon et al.; Effect of Momordica charantia on key hepatic enzymes; Journal of Ethnopharmacology (1994)
4. D. Ghosh and S. Ghosh; Forbidden Foods for Healthy Pregnancy; International Journal of Scientific Research and Reviews (2018)
5. H. Parildar, R. Serter, and E. Yesilada; Diabetes mellitus and phytotherapy in Turkey; Journal of Pakistan Medical Association


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