Papaya During Pregnancy: Is It Safe To Eat?

Papaya During Pregnancy

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Some foods come under ‘to-eat-or-not-to-eat’ category during pregnancy. Papaya is one such fruit that is high in nutrition but pregnant women usually do not know whether or not to eat.
In this MomJunction post, we will share information on the consumption of papaya during pregnancy, its safety, benefits, and effects.

Is It Safe To Eat Papaya During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe as long as you are consuming ripe papaya in moderate quantities. But semi-ripe and unripe papaya may cause complications in pregnant women. Raw papaya is high in latex, a substance responsible for uterine contractions (1). Hence, doctors do not recommend consuming the green fruit as it may lead to adverse effects on expecting mums.

You should be careful about what you are eating during pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimester as these are considered crucial stages. Let’s throw some light on eating papaya during these times.

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Can Papaya Cause Miscarriage In Early Pregnancy?

Yes, an unripe and semi-ripe form of the fruit might cause miscarriage. The risk is high during the early stages of pregnancy as the latex in the fruit might trigger unnatural contractions leading to miscarriage.

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Can You Have Papaya In Pregnancy Third Trimester?

Avoid raw papaya in the third trimester. The high amount of latex in the fruit could stimulate hormones responsible for contractions. Furthermore, eating green papaya might lead to hemorrhaging and bleeding from the corners of the placenta (2).

Therefore, unripe papaya is not recommended during the last months of pregnancy. In fact, papaya is given to induce labor during the third trimester, in rare cases.

Why should you avoid latex in papaya?

Latex (the milky liquid) is a mixture of papain, endopeptidases, and chymopapain (3). This substance is considered unsafe because:

  • The enzyme papain is known to stimulate contractions that can cause abortion (4). Also, it hinders the production of progesterone hormone, which is significant for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Latex acts like oxytocin and prostaglandin, the hormones that could start labor (5).

Latex is found in unripe and semi-ripe papaya, and also in the leaves of the fruit. Hence, try to avoid unripe or semi-ripe papaya throughout your pregnancy.

But the proportion of latex diminishes as the fruit ripens and hence, the ripe fruit can be eaten to enjoy its taste as well as benefits.

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Benefits Of Eating Papaya (Ripe) In Pregnancy:

The ripe papayas are a powerhouse of nutrients. You may eat the fruit but in moderation. Here are the benefits it could offer:

  1. Facilitates digestion: Pregnant women commonly suffer from indigestion issues such as constipation and acidity. Papaya, a rich source of antioxidants such as beta carotene, and minerals such as potassium, helps in treating heartburn and bowel concerns (6).
  1. Boosts immunity: High amount of vitamin and antioxidant content in the fruit is good to boost immunity, which further helps in cutting down the risks related to infections.
  1. Prevents morning sickness: Morning sickness and nausea are again some common issues faced by expecting mums. Consuming fresh and ripe papaya can help in mitigating the problem (7).
  1. Prevents dehydration: This wondrous fruit contains a substantial quantity of water. Consuming the fruit can help pregnant women avoid dehydration and its related effects.
  1. Increases the levels of hemoglobin: Would-be mothers are at a higher risk of anemia and respiratory problems due to low hemoglobin levels. However, eating papaya when pregnant provides iron that increases the hemoglobin levels (8).
  1. Provides energy: Expecting mums require enough energy to avoid tiredness. The pawpaw fruit contains the right amount of sugar content and calories to pump up their energy levels.
  1. Reduces the risk of diseases: The folic acid in papaya helps reduce pregnancy complications, strokes and heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancer types too (9).
  1. Eliminates free radicals: It is common to have increased levels of free radicals during pregnancy, however, it should not exceed the limits (10). Papaya can help keep the free radicals under control (11).

Although ripe papaya is good for pregnancy, there are conditions when you should avoid it.

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When Not To Eat Papaya During Pregnancy?

The doctor may advise you not to consume the fruit during pregnancy, if:

  • you have allergies to latex (12)
  • you have gone through any infertility treatment and are conceiving after a long time
  • you had a miscarriage, abortion, premature delivery, or such concerns previously.

Also, as mentioned earlier, you should avoid raw papaya as it might lead to some adverse effects.

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Effects Of Eating Papaya During Pregnancy:

Unripe and semi-ripe papayas are not recommended for pregnant women for the following reasons.

  1. Can be harmful to the fetus development: Teratogenic enzymes can be harmful for fetal development. And papaya contains two of them – chymopapain and papain. Women having a history of miscarriages and abortions should stay away from unripe papaya.
  1. May cause edema: Eating excess raw papaya in pregnancy may cause edema (1), which means fluid retention in the body. This, in turn, exerts pressure on the blood vessels and might even slow down the process of blood circulation. More pressure could result in internal hemorrhage and affect the embryo.
  1. A risk of kidney stones: Papaya, a rich source of vitamin C, can form kidney stones when eaten in excess amounts. This may result in stomach cramps that are not good for pregnant women and the baby (13).
  1. Can weaken fetal membranes: The papain content in papaya could weaken the membranes of the fetus. This might slow down the development of cells and tissues of the fetus, affecting its health (14).
  1. Exerts pressure on the stomach: The presence of latex in unripe and semi-ripe papaya can trigger uterine contractions. Papaya is also considered a potent emmenagogue which leads to miscarriage. The fiber content in papaya may exert pressure on intestines and stomach (15).
  1. Produces estrogen: An imbalance of hormones is common during pregnancy. The papain helps in regularizing menstrual cycle. But during pregnancy, it can increase the temperature of the body, leading to bleeding.

In the next section, we answer a few more queries on papaya during pregnancy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is cooked papaya safe during pregnancy?

As long as you are cooking a fully ripe papaya, it is safe to consume. Try to avoid unripe and semi-ripe papayas, even when cooked.

2. Can I drink papaya juice in pregnancy?

Juice made with raw papaya should be avoided (1). However, if you are making fresh papaya juice with the ripe fruit, you can go for it.

3. Can I have papaya milkshake during pregnancy?

Yes, if you are using the fresh pulp of the ripe fruit. A fresh papaya milkshake made with the fruit pulp, honey, and milk can be a good source of nutrition.

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Ripe papayas, when eaten in moderation, offer nutrition to pregnant women. On the other hand, semi-ripe and unripe papayas could be harmful. You may talk to your doctor and get his/her opinion before you consume papaya.

Have you eaten papaya during pregnancy? Do share your experience with us in the comments section below.

References:

1. Adebiyi A, Adaikan PG, & Pasad RN; Papaya (Carica papaya) consumption is unsafe in pregnancy: fact or fable? Scientific evaluation of a common belief in some parts of Asia using a rat model; The British Journal of Nutrition (2002)
2. Aravind. G, Debjit Bhowmik, Duraivel. S & Harish. G; traditional and medicinal uses of carica papaya; Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies
3. L.G. Silva, O. Garcia, M.T.P. Lopes, & C.E. Salas; Changes in protein profile during coagulation of latex from Carica papaya; Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research (1997)
4. Meera Sumanth and Ugendra K. Effect of unripe carica papaya on uterus. Int J Res. Ayurveda Pharm (2013)
5. Options for induction of labour; Barwon Health
6. Common discomforts during pregnancy; UNM Health Sciences Center
7. What to do about “Morning Sickness”; Women’s Birth & Wellness Center
8. Choralina Eliagita, Tjahjono Kuntjoro, Sri Sumarni, Ari Suwondo, et al.; Effect of consuming papaya (carica papaya linn.) on the level of hemoglobin and hematocrit in pregnant women with anemia; Belitung Nursing Journal (2017)
9. Philippines: The fruit that heals; International Tropical Fruits Network
10. Ogbodo S. O., Okaka A. N. C., Nwagha U. I., Ejezie F. E., Free Radicals and Antioxidants Status in Pregnancy: Need for Pre- and Early Pregnancy Assessment, American Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 6, 2014, pp. 230-235. doi: 10.5923/j.ajmms.20140406.06.
11. Dr. Neethu S Kumar, Sreeja Devi PS; The surprising health benefits of papaya seeds: A review; Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry
12. Sumana Reddy; Latex Allergy; American Academy of Family Physicians (1998)
13. 5 Common Myths About Kidney Disease Prevention; National Kidney Foundation
14. Tarun Vij & Yash Prashar; A review on medicinal properties of Carica papaya Linn, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease (2015)
15. K L Krishna, M Paridhavi, & Jagruti A Patel; Review on nutrition, medicinal and pharmacological properties of Papaya (Carica papaya Linn.); JSS College of Pharmacy, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Pharmacy, Nirma University of Science & Technology (2008)

 

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