Papaya (Papita) During Pregnancy: How Good It Is for You

Everything that a woman eats during her pregnancy affects the child. That’s the reason why it is essential to know what a to-be mother should or shouldn’t consume. A lot of harmless looking food items may prove to be dangerous for the vulnerable developing child. One of many such food items is – Papaya or Papita.

Papaya in Pregnancy

There is a lot of dilemma in pregnant women about the consumption of papaya. Ripe papaya when eaten with caution can be beneficial but unripe papayas can also cause many complications during pregnancy.

Early pregnancy

In the early months or stages of pregnancy, the foetus is delicate and must be taken utmost care of. Even the slightest amount of harmful substances, like latex, can cause a lot of harm. Unripe papaya contains substances with latex, which causes uterine (womb) contractions. The latex of fruits contains vegetable pepsin or ‘papain’ in the case of papaya. This ‘papain’ acts like prostaglandins (endogenous or body’s own substance) and oxytocin ( a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland of the brain) which induces contractions. Abnormal or such unnatural uterine contractions in pregnancy may cause miscarriage or premature birth of a baby. Papain also weakens the vital membranes of the foetus making its survival difficult. Hence, in the first trimester, unripe papaya must be completely avoided.

Third Trimester

In the third trimester or last three months of pregnancy, Papaya may induce early labour by causing uterine contractions due to the enzyme ‘Papain’ present in it. Given the complications, many women choose to refrain from consuming papaya in their diet. Reports suggest bleeding or haemorrhages from the edge of the placenta can also be caused by consumption of raw papaya during later pregnancy.

Benefits of Eating Papaya (ripe) in Pregnancy

Fully ripe papayas are generally considered safe and often beneficial during pregnancy.

  • Latex, an ingredient in papayas works like prostaglandin and oxytocin which helps in controlling respiratory disorders.
  • Ripe papayas are rich in Vitamin A, B, C, potassium, and beta-carotene, all which have high antioxidant content and boost immunity.
  • Vitamin supply from papaya improves immunity which prevents against various infections.
  • Vitamin adequacy also prevents ulcers and skin problems.
  • Fibres contained in papaya facilitate digestion: A common problem of constipation during pregnancy can be countered naturally through papayas. However, consult your obstetrician regarding regular consumption.
  • Papayas can help overcome morning sickness.
  • Papayas also contain folic acid, which is essential during pregnancy for the neurological development of the baby.
  • Papayas also help promote better heart health and are believed to prevent colon cancer.
  • Having papaya in viral illnesses during pregnancy may help increase the platelet counts, although this fact is not supported by scientific data.
  • Having the right amount of ripe papayas helps increase the milk production.

Effects of Eating Papaya During Pregnancy

Here are some other effects of eating papaya during pregnancy:

  1. Causes Uterine Contractions:

Latex in unripe papaya or even partially ripe papaya has papain which may stimulate prostaglandin and oxytocin, hormones that can lead to uterine contractions and can lead to premature labour. Papaya can lead to miscarriage as it is a potent emmenagogue. It must be avoided completely in early pregnancy. This is the period when the placenta is being formed, and the presence of an insignificant amount of latex can potentially harm the womb.

  1. Impedes Fetal Development:

Pepsin and papain can be detrimental to fetal survival and development. Studies report that having papayas during pregnancy can hamper implantation, increase the risk of pregnancy loss post implantation and pose potential harm to the embryo.

  1. Weakens The vital Fetal Membranes:

Papain is often used for cell dissociation as it is a proteolytic enzyme. It is known to retard cell growth and hamper the development of the tissue in the foetus.

  1. May cause haemorrhage and edema:

Unripe papaya can raise the vascular pressure and even lead to internal haemorrhage or bleeding in the placenta. Placental bleeding or haemorrhage leads to pregnancy and delivery related complications. Papaya can affect the development and function of the placenta.

  1. Excess bowel movement can cause miscarriage:

Papaya increases the gut motility. However, excess bowel movement can create pressure in and around the uterus and cause miscarriage. Papaya is fibre rich and the pressure it puts on the stomach and intestines and can possibly lead to miscarriage.

  1. Effect on the nervous system:

Leaves and seeds of papaya contain carpine toxin that is detrimental to the central nervous system.

  1. Abortifacient and teratogenic:

Papain and chymopapain are two enzyme substances present in papaya which are both teratogenic (harmful to the development of the foetus) as well as abortifacient (abortion causing).

  1. Previous history of abortion/ premature labour and papain effects:

Women who have experienced premature labours or abortions can be at increased risk due to papain. Hence, it is advisable for such women to better avoid papayas during pregnancy.

  1. Stimulates estrogen production:

The papain in papaya also helps to regularize menstrual cycle. While menstruation never happens in pregnancy. Bleeding through the vagina is a red flag sign of impending abortion or ectopic pregnancy. Papaya raises the body temperature and enhances estrogen production in the body.

  1. Causes kidney stones and raises intra abdominal pressure:

Papayas have vitamin C which is good for immunity but an excess may cause kidney stones. Vitamin C metabolism produces oxalate that can promote stone formation. Calculi or stones may cause colicky pains and this ultimately increases the intra abdominal pressure which affects pregnancy.

  1. Affects blood sugar levels:

Papaya is unsafe during pregnancy if the pregnant woman has a history of gestational diabetes.

  1. Skin Discolouration:

Beta carotene content of papaya gives it the orange tinge. An excess of which causes a benign problem known as carotenemia. One should avoid papaya to prevent the discolourations.

Can you Drink Papaya Juice?

No, it is recommended that the consumption of commercially available papaya juice should be avoided. One of the major benefits of a papaya is that it is rich in fibre. Converting it into juice negates this benefit. In addition, papaya juice which is available in tetra packs may contain papaya concentrate. The percentage content of latex or papain is relatively higher in such juices. Therefore, it is better to go for home-made juice if you want some. The preservatives and added sugar may reduce its beneficial properties. Consume fresh and in small quantities.

Risks of Having Raw Papaya when Pregnant

It is the raw papaya that contains a high content of latex. Eating raw papaya in pregnancy can have a harmful effect on your pregnancy.

As the immune system is weakened, women become more vulnerable to illnesses and allergies when they are pregnancy.

  • Latex allergy may be cause by the latex in a papaya, and have fatal repercussions.
  • Women with a previous history of difficulty in getting pregnant or wasted pregnancies shall avoid papayas. Studies suggest that papaya which is unripe also affects the development of the foetus.
  • Unripe papaya causes abortion. A Papaya that is not ripe contains concentrated harmful enzymes, which may lead to miscarriage and bleeding.
  • You should avoid ingesting the seeds and leaves papaya as they may harm the foetus. When buying one, try to pick a slightly greenish papaya which then can be ripened at home.. Papayas with black spots or bruises should be avoided.
  • The best option is a well ripened papaya, which is orangish-amber in colour and is soft to touch.
  • Papaya is easily is an affordable fruit. It is easy to grow one in your compound and enjoy organic papayas.

Is Papaya Good For Pregnant Women?

Consuming small quantities of ripe papaya is beneficial for pregnant women.

It has been established that pregnant women can eat papayas as long as they are ripe. It is a common myth in India that a papaya causes miscarriage but this has not been proven scientifically. In fact, a ripe papaya is packed with nutrients that are needed for the unborn baby as are a great addition to a pregnancy diet. The fruit also helps cure common pregnancy ailments like heartburn and constipation. A pregnant lady can benefit from the consumption of ripe papayas in moderate amounts.

Is It Safe To Eat Papaya After Delivery?

Many women ask the question – is it safe to eat ripe papaya after delivery?

Yes, Papayas are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals. The consumption of green papaya has the potential to boost the production of the hormone oxytocin in the body and hence increase the milk flow. It is thus beneficial for nursing mothers. Add papaya to your postnatal diet today to nurse your baby and bond with him to your heart’s content. Ever wondered, can papaya stop pregnancy? the answer again is yes, it can.

Papaya with its hormonal effects can act as a natural way of contraception, but with a lesser degree of surety in comparison with other methods of contraception.

Conclusion: 

Since the consumption of ripe or raw papayas is a controversial subject most women choose to avoid papayas completely during pregnancy. However, it can be consumed in small quantities provided there is no history of pregnancy complications without worrying about and adverse effect on the baby. In fact, papaya’s right nutrients help in the development of the baby.