Papaya in Pregnancy: Should it be avoided and why?

Papaya in pregnancy

Amongst the most niggling questions in the minds of pregnant mothers when it comes to what to/not to eat is whether or not papaya in pregnancy is okay to eat. Is it just another old wives’ pregnancy tale or is there any basis behind this belief? And if papaya during pregnancy is not safe, why is it so?

In one sentence, as per all scientific evidence, a FULLY ripe papaya is completely safe to be eaten during pregnancy, whereas a semi-ripe and unripe papaya aren’t.

What makes raw papaya unsafe during pregnancy?

  • Causes uterine contractions

Unripe, raw and semi ripe papayas contain a chemical compound called latex. An enzyme called papain in the latex of a raw or even a semi-ripe papaya can activate prostaglandin and oxytocin hormones, which in turn can trigger uterine contractions and induce premature labour. Such labour brought about due to papaya consumption can also lead to miscarriage or even abnormalities in the foetus. Papain is in fact a labour inducing drug. It must be noted that even very small amounts of latex could harm the uterus.

  • Impedes Foetal Development

The enzyme pepsin and papain can adversely affect chances of the foetus’s survival as well as impede foetal growth and development. Research reveals that consuming papaya or even parts like leaves and seeds of the papaya plant during pregnancy can severely harm the foetus.

  • Causes haemorrhage and oedema:

Raw papaya can exert pressure on blood vessels, which could in turn lead to internal haemorrhage and bleeding in the placenta. This slows blood circulation, which could affect the growth of the embryo in the womb. Haemorrhage in the placenta causes complications during pregnancy and delivery. Papaya can cause disruption in placental formation as well.

  • Excess Bowel Movement Can Cause Miscarriage:

You must have heard papaya helps to relieve constipation and can also cure inflamed bowels. While that is true, excess bowel movement can create pressure on the uterus and cause miscarriage. So here this beneficial property of papaya can actually harm pregnant women.

  • Effect on Central Nervous System:

Some papaya parts like seeds and leaves contain a toxic substance called carpine that can cause damage to the central nervous system.

  • Stimulates Estrogen Production:

The papain enzyme in papaya is known to help in regularising the menstrual cycle. Since menstruation doesn’t happen during pregnancy, vaginal bleeding is not really a good sign.

Papaya as a Contraceptive

Based on all the properties of papaya stated above, it can even be used as a natural contraceptive. Once again, papain present in raw papayas suppresses progesterone, the female reproductive hormone. In fact, papaya is widely used in Asian cuisines. It is important to note though that the role of raw papaya as a natural contraceptive is not yet proven.

Is it safe to eat ripe papaya during pregnancy?

Some women cannot reject the possibility of latex being present in a ripe papaya as well, which is why they would much rather avoid papaya completely during pregnancy.

Also, women with a history of miscarriages are recommended by the doctors to stay away from papaya. Better safe than sorry. The same goes for women who have had difficulty conceiving or have any history of premature labour.

How to choose your papayas during pregnancy

A fully ripe papaya that is considered to be safe to be consumed by a pregnant woman should be entirely yellow/orange in colour. You should be able to softly squeeze it to check the quality and make sure it is ripe by making sure that it is soft to press.