16 Dec 2018

A different kind of pregnancy scare

Turning to the internet for health advice during pregnancy can be exhausting and needlessly frightening.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
A different kind of pregnancy scare - NewsMavens
Pineapple, PixaBay

There are countless sources of information about pregnancy online, ranging from anonymous blogs, to “alternative medicine” and “wellness” pages, to websites of health organizations run by medical professionals.

Sometimes they offer contradictory information to expectant mothers - it’s not always easy to decide which one to follow. Add to this the “word of mouth” advice passed from friends and family members, and the experience can become overwhelming for women who seek information about what is and isn’t safe to do in pregnancy.

What makes this even harder is the habit of online media to publish clickbaity lists of “do’s and don’ts” which get copied, translated, reshuffled and recycled from one website and language to another, often mixing valid medical knowledge with outdated myths and misconceptions. Lists of foods to avoid during pregnancy are among the most common such examples, mashing perfectly “innocent” foods together with products which really do pose a risk of some sort.


This particular quote comes from an article titled “Fruits to Avoid During Pregnancy”, published on December 12, 2018. on a website called “Only my health”. But different versions of this decisive “ruling” appear in many “pregnancy food lists” across the world:

"Wondering if pregnant women can eat papaya during pregnancy? The answer is NO.”

The article goes on to explain that papaya is actually not “a definite no”, but is only risky if it’s unripe (which corresponds with scientific facts). However, the supposed risk related to eating pineapple is described as follows:

“Eating pineapple during pregnancy is not good so resist yourself from consuming pineapple during pregnancy. Pineapples are rich in bromelain, which can cause the softening of the cervix leading to early labour.”

Similar claims can be found worldwide. In online media in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and other Balkan countries, they even migrated from “pregnancy food lists” to full articles dedicated only to the supposed risk of pineapple inducing miscarriage (and/or excessive bleeding during menstruation).

They also appear in Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Greek, French and other languages. Some include remarks which echo the practice (or stories thereof) of using pineapple to either accelerate labor in late-term pregnancies, or to induce miscarriage in circumstances where access to safe abortion is not available.

These are two illustrative examples, both from Estonia:

Pineapple has traditionally been used to cause early termination of pregnancy” (source)

Eat seven pineapples to induce childbirth” (source)


For a start, the claim about bromelain from pineapple being able to induce miscarriage/labor is simply false. Here’s a brief take on this common misconception from Healthline’s website:

Pineapple contains bromelain, a type of enzyme. Bromelain tablets aren’t recommended for use during pregnancy. They can break down proteins in the body and lead to abnormal bleeding.

Although bromelain is found in the core of the pineapple, very little is actually in the flesh of the pineapple which is what we eat. The amount of bromelain in a single serving of pineapple isn’t likely to impact your pregnancy.

And Healthline’s final “verdict” on pineapple in pregnancy:

Pineapple is a safe, healthy choice during pregnancy. Someone might have told you to avoid this fruit because it may cause early miscarriage or bring on labor. However, this is just a myth.

It’s interesting that, while claims of the “abortive” traits of pineapple are common and widespread, there are far more articles countering this false information. They appear in virtually every language we used to search it online. Even those which did not return any search result for the false information itself.

A lot of those articles are written in reply to readers’ questions about the matter, usually listing a friend or a family member as a source of such claims (along with “I read it somewhere”, or “I heard it from my ‘naturopath’” or some other kind of “alternative medicine practitioner”).

These facts indicate that misconceptions about dangers of pineapple are probably more common via  “word of mouth” than in online sources. It’s hard to tell when and where they originated, but it has clearly become a global misapprehension which needlessly bothers pregnant women everywhere.

Along with “natural living” websites, the online version of “word of mouth” information -- such as “mom groups” and “mommy” blogs and message boards -- still contribute to the persistence of these claims. Pineapple is just one of the foods randomly “flagged” in such groups and these shifting “trends” can be frustrating for their members who try to distinguish between genuine medical advice and unfounded rumours. Here’s a comment from one such discussion, written exactly a decade ago:

“First honey, now pineapple. Eventually we’ll end up eating nothing for nine months”


Lists of food to avoid during pregnancy, or any other health advice coming from dubious online sources, should always be taken with a grain of salt. The best place to get medical advice about pregnancy, or anything else health-related, is the doctor’s office. If you’re looking for it online, it should at the very least be a source which employs medical professionals and real experts in their fields:  a website of a health provider, a medical institution, or a credible health organization. That way you’ll avoid being mislead by pseudoscience and fake news about health -- which is exactly what this widespread claim is.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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