Eating Bitter Gourd (Karela) in Pregnancy: Benefits & Risks

Eating Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy brings about a lot of changes in a woman’s body and to cope up with those changes (and to ensure the proper growth of the baby), the woman has to make certain dietary and lifestyle changes. If you’re pregnant, you know what we are talking about. By now, you must have already made certain changes in your diet. Your diet now, most likely comprises of all sorts of healthy foods such as whole grains, green vegetables, and fruits as these will meet your nutritional requirements and ensure the healthy development of your baby too. And while most vegetables are good for baby’s health, some veggies and fruits such as bitter gourd may not be exactly healthy for your baby. Read on to know whether or not bitter gourd during pregnancy can be consumed.

Is It Safe to Eat Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy?

Wondering if bitter gourd is good for pregnancy? Bitter gourds are rich in nutrients which are good for a baby’s health. However, there have been a few controversies due to the risks associated with consuming bitter gourd during your pregnancy. The jury is still out on this matter, so it is up to you to add bitter gourds to your diet or avoid them entirely.

Bitter Gourd Juice during pregnancy

Nutritional Value of Bitter Gourd

Here is the nutrient profile of 100 g of bitter gourd:

Nutrient Quantity
Sodium 5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 3.7 g
Protein 1 g
Calcium 19 mg
Iron 0.4 mg
Potassium 296 mg

Health Benefits of Eating Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy

Here are some of the benefits of eating bitter gourd when pregnant:

  • Bitter gourd is a valuable addition to the diet of expectant mothers with gestational diabetes, as it is low in carbs and high in fibre, effectively regulating blood sugar levels.
  • Expecting mothers often grapple with digestive issues like constipation and indigestion. Bitter gourd, rich in fibre, facilitates smoother digestion and encourages regular bowel movements.
  • Bitter gourd’s wealth of antioxidants and vitamin C fortify the immune system, enabling pregnant women to ward off infections and safeguard both their own and their baby’s health.
  • Abundant in vitamin C, bitter gourd is instrumental in maintaining healthy skin, warding off skin concerns like acne and pigmentation commonly experienced during pregnancy.
  • The ample folic acid content in bitter gourd supports the baby’s healthy growth and development, significantly reducing the likelihood of birth defects.
  • With its low-calorie and high-fibre content, bitter gourd is an excellent choice for expectant mothers seeking to manage their weight effectively. Additionally, it imparts a feeling of fullness, preventing excessive consumption.

Side-effects of Eating Bitter Gourd During Pregnancy

Eating bitter gourds can be harmful to the health of the baby. Mentioned below are the side effects of consuming karela in pregnancy

1. Sensitivity

Some women may experience favism if they consume bitter gourd during pregnancy. Favism is the destruction of red blood cells, which happens due to a molecule vicine present in bitter gourds. This could lead to anaemia and have disastrous repercussions on your pregnancy. Hence, it is best to avoid consuming bitter gourds during pregnancy. But if you still want to, you should speak to your doctor regarding it. If she gives a go-ahead, consume it in small quantities.

2. Toxicity

Bitter gourds are known to contain molecules such as quinine, momordica and glycosides. These substances can poison the body, leading to intestinal pain, problems with vision, vomiting, tiredness, muscle fatigue, nausea, and overproduction of saliva.

3. Stomach Problems

Bitter gourd consumption can result in stomach aches, indigestion, diarrhoea, pain in the abdomen, and so on. These effects can also come from eating bitter gourd seeds.

How Much Bitter Gourd Can You Have During Pregnancy?

Bitter gourd is unsafe for consumption during pregnancy – you know that now. But if you love karela, we know you will want to enjoy it once in a while during pregnancy and you can as long as you eat it in moderate amounts. You can have a cup of bitter gourd once or twice in a week, but make sure you do not exceed the quantity. A maximum of 2 cups of bitter gourd in the form of a curry or vegetable during pregnancy is recommended as long as it is not consumed in one sitting. You can consume in small quantities during lunch and dinner.  Better yet, consult your nutritionist before including it in your diet. If you have never had it before, we suggest that you don’t start eating it while pregnant.

How to Include Bitter Gourd in Your Pregnancy Diet?

Here are some delicious ways in which you can make bitter gourd a part of your pregnancy diet!

1. Stir-fry With Other Vegetables

Sauté chopped bitter gourd with an array of colorful vegetables for a nutrient-rich side dish.

2. Bitter Gourd Juice

Extract the juice from bitter gourd and blend it with other fruits or vegetables for a refreshing and nutritious drink.

3. Bitter Gourd Chips

Thinly slice bitter gourd, lightly coat with olive oil, and bake or air-fry until crispy for a crunchy snack.

Precautions While Consuming Bitter Gourd in Pregnancy

Here are some precautions a pregnant woman must adhere to while consuming bitter gourd:

  1. Consume bitter gourd in moderation. Excessive intake may lead to stomach discomfort or digestive issues.
  2. Seek advice from your healthcare provider before adding bitter gourd to your diet, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns about potential interactions with medications.
  3. Bitter gourd can be bitter, and some may find it hard to palate. Properly preparing it through cooking methods like blanching, sautéing, or incorporating it into flavorful dishes can help mitigate its intense bitterness.

FAQs

1. Can I Have Bitter Gourd Juice During Pregnancy?

Drinking bitter gourd juice during pregnancy can induce contractions and can even cause bleeding. So it is best to avoid bitter gourd juice during pregnancy. However, if you want to drink it, consume it in small amounts after checking with your doctor.

2. Are Bitter Gourd Seeds Edible During Pregnancy?

Bitter gourd seeds are best avoided during pregnancy, especially if you have a G6PD deficiency. The seeds contain a chemical compound vicine, which could lead to favism. And it can further cause fever, nausea, anaemia, and stomach pain.

3. Can I Get Cramps If I Eat Bitter Gourd in Pregnancy?

Yes, consuming bitter gourd during pregnancy may lead to abdominal cramps or discomfort in some individuals. Its natural bitterness can potentially cause mild gastrointestinal irritation. If you experience cramps or discomfort after eating bitter gourd, it’s advisable to moderate your intake or consult your healthcare provider for personalised guidance.

Not everything that is organic and natural should be consumed, especially when it could put your baby at risk. Bitter gourd during pregnancy first and second trimester are not really safe to eat. If you want to eat it, consult your doctor.

References/Resources:

1. Balsam-pear (bitter gourd), raw, pods; nutritionvalue.org; https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Balsam-pear_%28bitter_gourd%29%2C_raw%2C_pods_nutritional_value.html?size=100+g

2. Diet Chart of a Pregnant Woman: wcd.nic.in; https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Diet%20Chart%20For%20West%20India.pdf

3. Bitter Melon; peacehealth.org; https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/hn-2043009

4. The Health Benefits of Bitter Melon; health.clevelandclinic.org; https://health.clevelandclinic.org/bitter-melon-benefits/

5. Bitter Melon; medlineplus.gov; https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/795.html

6. HEALTH BENEFITS OF BITTER GOURD; narayanahealth.org; https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/health-benefits-of-bitter-gourd/

7. Bitter Melon; mskcc.org; https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/bitter-melon

Also Read:

Wood Apple (Bael Fruit) in Pregnancy?
Is It Safe to Eat Eggplant during Pregnancy?
Consuming Drumstick (Shajan) when Pregnant

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