Eating Papaya in Pregnancy – Benefits, Risks & more

Papaya (Papita) During Pregnancy: How Safe is It?

Medically Reviewed By
Trishita Nalvath (Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian)
View more Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian Our Panel of Experts

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

Papaya During 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 cause many complications during pregnancy.

Also Read: Eating Apple while Pregnant

1. 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.

Also Read: Eating Mango while Pregnant

2. 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 during pregnancy. Reports suggest that 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 papaya, 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 of 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 to treat 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 milk production.

Also Read: Eating Grapes while Pregnant

Negative 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 premature labour. Papaya can cause miscarriage, as it is a potent emmenagogue, which stimulates and increases menstrual flow. 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.

2. Impedes Fetal Development:

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

Also Read: Consuming Oranges while Pregnant

3. Weakens 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.

4. May Cause Haemorrhage and Oedema:

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

5. Increases Bowel Movement:

Papaya increases 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 can possibly lead to a miscarriage.

6. Affects the Nervous System:

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

7. Abortifacient and Teratogenic:

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

8. Harmful to Women With a History of Abortion/ Premature Labour:

Women who have experienced premature labour or abortion can be at increased risk of suffering pregnancy complications due to papain. Hence, it is advisable for such women to avoid papayas during pregnancy.

Also Read: Drinking Lemon Water while Pregnant

9. Stimulates Oestrogen Production:

The papain in papaya also helps to regularise the menstrual cycle. While menstruation never happens in pregnancy, bleeding through the vagina is a sign of impending abortion or ectopic pregnancy. Papaya raises body temperature and enhances oestrogen production in the body.

10. 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 causes the body to produce oxalate that can promote stone formation. Calculi or stones may cause colicky pains, and this ultimately increases the intraabdominal pressure, which affects pregnancy.

11. Affects Blood Sugar Levels:

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

12.  Leads to Skin Discolouration:

Beta carotene in papaya gives it an orange tinge. An excess of this causes a benign problem known as carotenemia. One should avoid papaya to prevent discolouration.

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 ripe 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 pregnant.

  • Latex allergy may be caused by the latex in a papaya, and have fatal repercussions.
  • Women with a previous history of fertility problems and miscarriages shall avoid papayas. Studies suggest that papaya that 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 of papaya, as they may harm the foetus. When buying one, try to pick slightly greenish papaya that can be ripened at home. Papayas with black spots or bruises should be avoided.
  • The best option is well-ripened papaya, which is orange-amber in colour and soft to touch.
  • Papaya is an affordable, easily-available fruit. It is easy to grow organic papayas in your compound and enjoy them.

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 making the fruit a great addition to the 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.  

Fruits to Eat Instead of Papaya

If you’ve made the decision to not eat papaya during your pregnancy and are wondering which fruits would be a good substitute for the nutritional value of papayas, this list is your answer.

1. Orange

Oranges are a great source of fibre, Vitamin C and water. They keep you hydrated and Vitamin C helps with iron absorption in the body, along with strengthening your immune system.

2. Pomegranate

Pomegranates are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin K, calcium, iron, fibre, and protein, all of which are vital for the health of the foetus and mother. Pomegranate juice is also known to strengthen the placenta against injury.

3. Guava

Guavas have Vitamin C, Vitamin E, carotenoids, and folates, which help aid digestion, relax muscles and joints, and get rid of constipation.

4. Grapes

Grapes contain plenty of folates, vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants, which strengthen the immune system. They also help prevent infections and help the body cope with the biological changes that occur during pregnancy.

5. Apple

Apples are packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and fibre, all of which nourish the fetus and aid its development and growth in the womb.

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 milk flow. It is, thus, beneficial for nursing mothers. Add papaya to your postnatal diet to nurse your baby and bond with him/her 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.

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 any adverse effect on the baby. In fact, the nutrients in papaya help in the development of the baby.

References: Healthline

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