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Is It Safe to Eat Papaya in Pregnancy?

By T. Carrier
Updated Feb 09, 2024
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Several ingestible substances are subject to debate when pregnancy is involved, including the fruit papaya. This food contains beneficial vitamins, and it may also help alleviate uncomfortable heartburn symptoms for pregnant women. A fully ripe papaya can thus be a healthy and beneficial snack. If any doubt about the fruit’s freshness exists, however, expectant mothers should forgo the food. Unripe papayas may trigger unwanted uterine contractions.

Papaya is a fruit that derives from an herb plant. The fruit produced is round, and its flesh tastes somewhat like cantaloupes. While papayas are native to tropical climates like lower Mexico and Central America, the fruit is exported around the world.

Obstetrician/gynecologists (OB-GYNs) recommend a healthy diet for their pregnant patients. This diet usually includes an abundance of needed nutrients important for both the mother’s and the unborn child’s health. Vitamin C is a primary and essential nutrient for pregnant women, and papaya contains a good amount of this nutrient. Therefore, eating papaya in pregnancy can help women fulfill the daily recommended vitamin C dosage. In addition, papaya combined with other substances like milk may aid in lactation.

Another reason eating papaya in pregnancy might prove useful is due to the prominence of papain in the fruit. This enzyme reportedly combats indigestion, which is a major discomfort for many pregnant women. It may help hinder constipation as well. Some critics argue fetal development may be adversely impacted by papain, but scientific research has not supported this claim.

Despite the benefits of papaya in pregnancy, an unripe papaya can contain a substance that is potentially dangerous when raw: latex. This white substance adheres to and seeps from the papaya. Latex from an unripe fruit can cause uterine contractions. If these contractions occur too early in a pregnancy, early labor and miscarriage may result.

Due to the risks of raw papayas, it might prove useful to learn how to tell if a fruit is ripe. Signs of a ripe fruit include juiciness and softness of the inner flesh, both if which may be indicated by a squeeze of the papaya. Ripe papayas in particular also have a strong aroma evident at the stem base and a yellowish, reddish, or orange outside coloring. A raw papaya, on the other hand, will typically be hard and green.

As with any food, individuals considering eating papaya in pregnancy should be certain that they are not allergic to it. Both latex and papaya tree pollen can cause respiratory effects or skin irritation in susceptible individuals. These effects may carry over to the entire papaya fruit in some instances. Consultation with a knowledgeable medical professional is perhaps the best course of action when in doubt about the effects eating papaya in pregnancy.

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Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Nov 21, 2013

I asked my gynecologist about this because I've been craving papaya a lot lately. She told me that there is an enzyme in unripe papaya and pineapple that can cause uterine contractions. But ripe papaya is okay in small amounts.

By donasmrs — On Nov 20, 2013

@ysmina-- I'm from Asia and I know that in many Asian countries, pregnant women avoid all papaya. My relatives told me that a long time ago, women who wanted to induce miscarriage would eat a lot of papaya early in their pregnancy. So I do think that there is truth to this, and I think that if eaten excessively, ripe papaya could be harmful as well.

I did eat ripe papaya a few times when I was pregnant. But I didn't eat a lot, so I had no problems. So I guess moderation is key.

By ysmina — On Nov 20, 2013

This is actually the first time I'm hearing that papaya is okay in pregnancy. My mother and everyone else I know has told me to avoid it. No one said to avoid it only when it's unripe.

I don't really understand why this warning exists. The last time I checked, fruits like papaya are only eaten when ripe anyway.

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