Pregnancy is not only the most crucial phase in the life of a woman but also one of the most confusing. To be mothers have to be extremely mindful regarding what goes into their stomach. And one of the burning questions most of the women ask the doctors is- is it safe to eat papaya during pregnancy or not?
Several old wives’ tales in India suggest that women must not consume papaya during pregnancy. The reason cited is that it could cause abortifacient and teratogenic effects. A study conducted in Tamil Nadu in India revealed that over 82% of women avoided eating papaya during pregnancy. In Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia, different parts of the papaya are used as an abortifacient. Additionally, some foods in Asia are classified as hot or cold foods. Hot foods are considered harmful for pregnant women, while cold foods are harmless. Papaya falls in the hot food category.
But is this question valid in the 21st century? Is papaya dangerous during pregnancy? Papaya contains vitamin A and B-carotene, which are required for the optimal being the development of the fetus. And malnutrition is one of the primary reasons for the low birth rate and infant mortality. Hence. It’s imperative to separate facts from myth concerning consumption of papaya during pregnancy.
Is It Safe To Eat Papaya During Pregnancy?
So can you eat papaya during pregnancy? Scientists and researchers suggest that you can eat papaya during pregnancy. Read on to know why!
Benefits Of Eating Papaya During Pregnancy:
Rich In Nutrients:
Papaya contains chock full of nutrients that can help both mother and baby significantly. It is rich in Vitamin A, E, and C and is an excellent source of folic acid and fiber as well. For these reasons, most of the experts recommend pregnant women eating small amounts of papaya.
Helps Alleviate Morning Sickness:
Eating a slice of papaya twice a week can help alleviate morning sickness. It also takes care of heartburn.
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. To get rid of it, have a slice of ripe papaya every week. Papayas are super-rich in fiber, which can help maintain a regular bowel movement. It also relieves gastritis and bloating that are common during pregnancy.
Has A High Anti-Oxidant Content:
Papaya is known to have a high anti-oxidant content and can help get rid of the free radicals present in the body. Pregnant women can take in a few bites of a fully ripe papaya to replenish the reserve antioxidants in the body.
The immune system is responsible for fending off the diseases and a child-bearing body is more prone to different kind of problems. Papaya can come in as a helpful aid as it boosts the immune system of the mother.
Prevents Ulcers And Other Skin Problems:
As already mentioned, papaya helps in clearing the body of free radicals. As an ultimate benefit of this process, ulcers do not occur easily in the body of the pregnant women and also keeps the problems of pimples and acne stay at bay.
Increases Milk Production:
One of the main causes of worry for a nursing mother is the production of enough amount of milk to feed the new-born. Often, papaya is found to be the answer to this question of production of enough milk. Eating the right amount of a fully ripe papaya can be helpful in increasing the milk-production in a nursing mother.
Great For Heart Health:
Papaya is also known to be good for the heart, one of the most important organs in the body. Eating just a few slices of a ripened papaya can help in the better functioning of the heart of a pregnant woman. It is also known to improve the heart health of the fetus growing inside the mother’s body.
Papaya can also be helpful in the prevention against cancer. It can help in protecting the body against cancer cells as it decreases the number of free radicals in the body. As a result, less healthy cells in the body mature and die, thus, reducing the chances of suffering from cancer.
Dangers Of Eating Unripe Papaya During Pregnancy?
But it’s not entirely correct to disregard the elders, right? Even the Indian doctors ask the to-be mothers to abstain from eating papayas, and they have some solid reasons to back their claim. Below are some of the dangers of eating papaya during pregnancy.
Unripe Papaya Contains Latex:
Unripe papaya contains high levels of latex, which reduces largely upon ripening, and completely disappears when completely ripe. But do you know what latex is? Latex is a stable dispersion or emulsion composed of papain and chymopapain, which can have abortifacient and teratogenic effects on the body. Hence, women with a history of miscarriages and abortions are advised to steer clear of papaya, whether ripe or unripe.
It Is Used As Contraceptive In Some Parts Of The World:
Papaya has been used as a contractive in some places because of its ability to induce labor. It’s said that women enslaved in the West Indies would consume large quantities of papaya to keep their children from being born into slavery. Even medical researchers in animals have confirmed the contraceptive ability of papaya.
Papaya Mimics Prostaglandin:
Papain in unripe papaya tends to mimic Prostaglandins, which most of the gynecologists use to start the labor process.
It Can Cause Early Delivery:
Papain in unripe papaya acts as oxytocin and prostaglandin to increase the possibility of uterine contraction. This can lead to an early delivery.
Thwarts Fetal Development:
Papain and pepsin in raw papaya can impede the development of the fetus and can even reduce the chances of the survival of baby. It’s been proven that consuming raw papaya or some parts of papaya like skin and seeds can lead to anti-implantation, thereby increasing the chances of embryotoxicity and post-implantation loss. Carpine in seeds and leaves can also damage the central nervous system of the child.
It Can Weaken The Membranes Of The Fetus:
Papain in unripe papaya can also weaken the membranes, affecting the survival of the fetus. Papain is considered a proteolytic enzyme, which is used for cell dissociation. This slows down the tissue development and cell growth in children.
Stimulates Production Of Estrogen:
It’s a well-known fact that hot foods like papaya can regularize the menstrual cycle by increasing the production of estrogen in the body. Even your mother must have told you to eat papaya in case of a late period. But bleeding during pregnancy is anything but a good sign. Bleeding can even suggest ectopic pregnancy or abortion.
Can Cause Hemorrhage:
Hemorrhage occurs when the fluid is retained in the body. This exerts pressure on the blood vessels, causing the blood to pool. Excess pressure on the blood vessel causes internal hemorrhage and bleeding of the placenta. Unripe papaya can even slow down the blood circulation, thereby thwarting the growth of the embryo in the womb.
Excess Bowel Movement Can Lead To Miscarriage:
The high quantities of fiber in papaya are both boon and bane. While papaya is an excellent food for digestion, excess bowel movement can create pressure in the uterus, causing miscarriage.
A Potentially Allergic Fruit:
Latex makes papaya a potentially allergic fruit. And by latex allergy, we do not just mean the allergy to the gloves used in the hospital. The New York State Department of Health states that anyone with latex allergy can also be allergic to chestnuts, apples, wheat, rye, banana and other fruits that come from plants containing latex.
Can Cause Breathing Difficulties:
People who consume too much of papaya during pregnancy tend to suffer from respiratory disorders like wheezing cough, hay fever, nasal congestion, asthma and other breathing difficulties. Now breathing problems mean that your child is getting less oxygen, which can be fatal.
Can Have Negative Effect On The Nervous System:
A few components of the papaya are found to be detrimental to the nervous system. The seeds and the leaves are not to be consumed by a pregnant woman. The reason behind this is that the leaves and also the seeds contain a toxic compound called carpine which can cause problems in the neural transmission, thereby causing neural issues.
Can Cause Stones In the Kidney:
It has been stated that papayas are found to be a rich source of vitamin C which is of great benefit but an excess amount of this vitamin can lead to the development of kidney stones. This can cause other issues in a pregnant woman.
Increased Abdominal Pressure:
As the kidney stones are formed, they can lead to a rise in intra-abdominal pressure which can be very harmful to the fetus growing inside the mother’s body.
Has A Negative Effect On The Blood Sugar Level:
Papaya is found to cause an increase in the blood sugar level, especially if one has suffered from gastrointestinal diabetes. Thus, pregnant women with any such medical history are advised to not include papaya in their diet.
Papaya is supposed to contain a considerable amount of Beta-carotene that is quite helpful to the eyes and is said to improve our vision but if the amount taken in is too much it can cause carotenemia.
Is It Safe To Drink Papaya Juice?
It is advised that a pregnant woman should never drink packed papaya juice. The reason behind is that we don’t know if it is extracted from a ripe papaya or not. Even a little latex from an unripe papaya can harm the unborn child. The packed juice also contains a lot of preservatives that are not considered to be very unhealthy for a pregnant woman. The amount of sugar present in such juices are found to be too high. One of the best benefits of papaya is the amount of fiber present. When papaya juice is consumed instead of a papaya fruit we lose this very important benefit of papaya.
In case a pregnant woman wishes to have the juice, it is better to prepare it at home from a completely ripe papaya. Do not drink a large amount, rather take small quantities over an extended period of time.
How To Buy A Good Papaya?
Next question, that comes to mind is how to get a papaya of good quality. Whenever you are out to buy a papaya, try and buy a green, unripe papaya so that you can leave it for a few days to ripen naturally in front of your eyes. Doing this would protect you from consuming artificially ripened papaya that can bring in tons of complications for a pregnant woman later. Another thing to look out for is that the outer skin of papaya should not have any dark spots or black marks. Make sure to check for any kind of bruises and blemishes too. Once you have confirmed this, you can go ahead and buy it.
How To Check If The Papaya Is Ripe?
The color of the outer skin of the papaya is indicative in telling if the papaya is ripe or not. If the color of the outer skin turns orange-ish amber then the papaya is said to be ripe. Another way to confirm the same is by feeling the papaya. If it seems soft on touch it means that it is ripe enough to be eaten.
Safe Way To Consume Papaya For Pregnant Women:
One of the safe ways to consume papaya for expecting mothers is to prepare a kind of tonic. In this tonic, ripe papaya is mixed with honey. Then this mixture of honey and papaya is combined with milk. This tonic is found to be quite rich in nutrients and also anti-oxidants. In any case, one must avoid eating an unripe papaya at all costs even if it has been cooked. This tonic should be consumed in very fewer quantities. It is better to avoid this tonic during the early stages of the pregnancy and also during the third trimester.
The risks far outweigh the benefits, right. Therefore, it isn’t recommended to eat raw papaya during pregnancy. You can, however, eat a fully ripened one. But as a safety measure, the British Journal of Nutrition and even we suggest you excluding papaya from your diet as even a tiny amount of latex can be dangerous to pregnant women. And if you are still unsure, talk to your gynecologist about it.
What do you think? Is it safe to eat papaya during pregnancy? Let us know in the comment section below!