Can I Eat Papaya During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, the fundamentals of healthy eating—lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats and plant-based foods—still apply. However, it's been well-established that certain foods, including alcohol and high-mercury seafood, aren't good for pregnant women.
But what about papaya during pregnancy?
Can pregnant women eat papaya?
Ripe papaya—as opposed to raw or semi-raw papaya—is safe to eat during pregnancy, explained Vita Eizans, D.O., an OB-GYN at Trinity Health Medical Group in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area.
Here's a general rule of thumb: Ripe papaya has yellow skin, while unripe papaya has green skin.
Eating ripe papaya actually carries benefits for pregnant women, according to Siena Lecorps, a nurse practitioner at New Hope Fertility in New York City. It's safe to eat papaya when it's ripe—and it's a rich source of nutrition.
"Not only is papaya packed with nutrients and antioxidants which help support fetal neurological development, but it also contains a ton of fiber and has proven to help with pregnancy-related constipation and morning sickness," Lecorps said. "Well-ripened papaya can also naturally help prevent anemia by supporting the production of red blood cells due to its high content of vitamin C."
Can pregnant women eat unripe papaya?
On the other hand, raw or semi-ripe green papaya can potentially be problematic for pregnant women, according to Eizans. Limited animal research has found that unripe or semi-ripe papaya could be unsafe in pregnancy due to high concentrations of latex in the fruit.
Papaya latex contains the enzyme papain, which may be confused by the body for prostaglandins, or hormone-like compounds that can help induce labor.
Prior studies found that high levels of papaya latex triggered the contraction of uterine muscles in rats. Uterine contractions can induce early labor—but only in theory, according to Monte Swarup, M.D., an OB-GYN in Chandler, Arizona, and the founder of Vaginal Health Hub.
"Further research is needed to ascertain the ultimate risk," he said.
Still, even a theoretical risk is best averted, Eizans suggested.
"Best avoid papaya unless it is ripe," she said.
A pregnant woman should choose a fully ripe papaya. Add raw papaya to the list of foods to stay away from during pregnancy.
Is papaya safe during pregnancy?
Ripe papaya is safe to eat at any point during pregnancy, according to Swarup. Although pregnant women should refrain from eating raw papaya, there are certain periods of pregnancy when consuming raw papaya is especially dangerous.
Raw papaya during early pregnancy
Can papaya cause miscarriage in early pregnancy when it's unripe? It's unlikely to lead to miscarriage, Swarup noted, but early pregnancy is when the risk of miscarriage and other problems is highest.
"It is likely safe throughout pregnancy, but in reference to theoretical risk, the highest risk is in early pregnancy," he added. Specifically, the first trimester of pregnancy is when pregnant people are most vulnerable to complications.
Raw papaya during late pregnancy
Ripe papaya is safe to eat in all stages of pregnancy, third trimester or late pregnancy included. To be on the safe side, unripe papaya should be avoided throughout pregnancy—even late pregnancy.
Can you eat papaya seeds while pregnant?
Generally speaking, papaya seeds are safe to eat during pregnancy. Papaya seeds are packed with nutrients, polyphenols and flavonoids, two compounds that work as disease-fighting antioxidants.
Can you have papaya juice while pregnant?
Ripe papaya juice is safe to drink while pregnant. However, raw papaya juice should be avoided.
Can you take papaya enzymes while pregnant?
Papaya enzymes (amylase-protease) are often sold as a supplement to improve digestion. Papaya supplements often contain papain, an enzyme extracted from raw papaya fruit.
The papain enzymes in papaya supplements could induce early labor. Always talk to your doctor before starting to take a supplement, whether you are pregnant or not.
How much papaya should I eat to stop pregnancy?
How much unripe papaya can cause abortion? Swarup noted that the idea of eating any amount of papaya to stop a pregnancy is one of the misconceptions about abortion. Even in animal studies, raw papaya only resulted in contractions, not miscarriage. There's no evidence that eating ripe or unripe papaya can stop a pregnancy, even at high concentrations.
While it's unlikely the amount of papaya will stop a pregnancy, pregnant people should not eat unripe papaya to be safe.
The bottom line
The three experts agree: Eating papaya during pregnancy is fine when it's ripe, but unripe papaya is best avoided.
During pregnancy, it's important to eat nutrition-dense foods—like ripe papaya—for the health of you and your baby, Swarup advised. This includes vegetables, proteins, fruits, pasteurized dairy and omega-3 fats to support the development of the fetus.