Raw, cooked, ripe: Can pregnant women have papaya in any form?

It is extremely important to consume a nutritious diet during pregnancy. But, within the realm of nutritious foods, there are many dos and don’ts that women must follow when they are expecting a baby. Also, there are many myths about what foods they can or cannot consume during this time. One such controversial food is the humble papaya.

To clarify our doubts, we reached out to experts to understand the link between pregnancy and papaya. Find out what they had to say.

Dr B Gowthami, consultant, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Milann Fertility and Birthing Hospital said that like all other fruits, papayas are also packed with rich nutrients, minerals, and water. “But, raw or unripe papaya consists of latex and papin, a kind of chemical substances which have similar action as a group of compounds called prostaglandins and oxytocin. Hence, if a pregnant woman consumes unripe papaya, it may induce miscarriage, preterm labour, and PROM (Prelabor Rupture of Membranes) by weakening membranes around the baby. So, it’s wise to avoid raw papaya during pregnancy,” Dr Gowthami told indianexpress.com.

Dr Archana Batra, nutritionist and certified diabetes educator elucidated that latex is a well-known allergen which may cause a runny nose, swelling around the mouth, and skin rashes which are “common allergy symptoms”. “These allergic reactions can occasionally also cause breathing difficulties and anaphylaxis,” Dr Batra added.

While ripe papayas are high in vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient during pregnancy, according to Dr Batra, the high fibre content of raw papayas increases the bowel movement, which may put pressure on the pelvic and uterus and “can cause a miscarriage”.

pregnancy Women should eat healthy during pregnancy (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

It must also be known that ripe papayas, on the other hand, contain “many nutrients” that are important for a healthy pregnancy — like folate, fibre, cholene, and vitamins A, B and C, said Dr Rohini Patil, MBBS, nutritionist and CEO of Nutracy Lifestyle. Aman Puri, founder, Steadfast Nutrition also added that papaya is a good source of beta-carotene, fibre, folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, and C. “Consuming a fully-ripened papaya can be a healthy addition to an expecting mother’s diet as the activity of this enzyme is less or negligible in the ripened fruit,” he said, while adding that in high-risk pregnancies, “avoid consuming even a ripe papaya in the first trimester of pregnancy as a precautionary measure”.

How about cooked papayas? “Cooking doesn’t destroy the papain in the raw papaya as it is heat-resistant. But consuming raw papaya, whether in cooked or uncooked form, can cause harm to a pregnant woman’s body. Ripe papaya is okay to take in any form,” said Dr Batra. Dr Gowthami also shared that cooking ripe papaya “may not be a good idea as it may lose its nutritious value”.

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Benefits of papayas

According to Dr Patil

*Ripe papaya contains potassium which is important in pregnancy for the neurological development of baby.
*Papaya helps aid digestion and over constipation, which is common during pregnancy.
*Papaya is full of vitamins which improve immunity and prevent various infections.
*Papayas may also help treat viral illness during pregnancy, and increase the platelet count.
*Ripe papayas can help in increasing milk production, too.

Dr Batra added that morning sickness can also be alleviated by eating ripe papayas.

When and how much papaya can be consumed?

Eating 1 cup (100g) of fully ripened papaya, twice or three times a week, is recommended for pregnant women, said Dr Batra. “It can be consumed as a whole fruit or in the form of a papaya smoothie. This fruit can also be consumed at any time of day, but taking it before bedtime will help with indigestion issues. Ripe papayas can be eaten after delivery because they are high in vitamins and minerals. Papayas are also known to increase milk production, which is beneficial to nursing mothers,” said Dr Batra.

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