Elders of the family, especially the women, advise pregnant women to not eat papaya. Traditionally, it is believed that papaya could be harmful to the baby. There are many such theories surrounding this fruit. Papaya is believed to have the potential to shed off the zygote (fertilised egg). It is why many suggest consuming papaya in the case of unanticipated pregnancies.
Is there any truth to this concept, though?
Is it true, or is it just a myth?
Latex, a material found in semi-ripe or raw papaya, defends the plant against predators. Consumption of latex may cause uterine contractions. A contraction is when the uterus muscles tighten up like a fist and then relax. Contractions help push the baby out during labour and hence premature uterine contractions would lead to miscarriage.
The latex content of papaya fruit diminishes as it ripens. As a result, a completely ripe papaya fruit may contain very little or no latex, which might not cause uterine contractions.
Who is at risk?
Women prone to spontaneous abortion–preterm labour due to heightened myometrial excitability (response of the muscle layer in the uterus to stimulation by rapid changes in electric potential) may be more vulnerable even to the lower concentration of papaya latex.
The primary components of papaya latex are papain and chymopapain.
What does the research tell us?
Research published by Cambridge University reported the following findings:
While animal bioassay data are usually used to predict risk in humans, more experimental methodologies will be required to determine the ultimate risk of unripe and semi-ripe papaya consumption during pregnancy in humans 1.
(1) Adebiyi, A.; Adaikan, P. G.; Prasad, R. N. V. Papaya ( Carica Papaya ) Consumption Is Unsafe in Pregnancy: Fact or Fable? Scientific Evaluation of a Common Belief in Some Parts of Asia Using a Rat Model. Br. J. Nutr. 2002, 88 (2), 199–203. https://doi.org/10.1079/BJN2002598.