Busted: Fruits of labour
This weekly column debunks the various myths propagated by Indian cinema—Tamil films in particular
Myth: Papaya consumption causes abortion
Propagated in: Penmanai Aval Kanmani, Aalukkoru Asai
The longest running feud in Tamil cinema and television is likely the maamiyar-marumagal spat. It has come to a halt now thankfully, but over the decades, this has encompassed everything from psychological warfare to actual physical harm. In more than one film, the mother-in-law is shown to give the daughter-in-law papaya, openly or hidden in food, in order to induce an abortion. It wasn’t always the mother-in-law who took this route, of course. Husbands have been shown to do this too, to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. But this, of course, is a myth, says Dr Parikshit Tank, MD, Consultant OBGYN.
“You have to first understand the origin of this myth. There is an enzyme called papain that causes a contraction in the uterus. When such a contraction occurs, the uterus pushes out whatever is present inside; in this specific case, the foetus,” he explains. “As papaya contained papain, people started spreading this information. But this is a myth because a ripe papaya does not contain papain, and the fruit can be consumed without any ill-effects. Even in raw papaya, only the skin contains papain, and since no one actually eats the papaya skin, there isn’t any cause for concern even in that case. Now even if we do consider people who would dissolve the skin and consume papaya juice, the concoction needs to be made in abnormally large quantities for it to have the impact people think it would.”
So would he recommend papaya as part of a pregnant woman’s diet? “Just like any other fruit, as per a woman’s taste, I will recommend it indeed. I won’t ever say, don’t have papaya.”