Watermelon is a water-rich fruit purported to offer many benefits during pregnancy.
These range from reduced swelling and risk of pregnancy complications to relief from morning sickness to better skin.
However, few of these benefits are supported by science.
This article examines the research to determine whether watermelon offers any specific benefits during pregnancy.
Watermelon is a source of carbs, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. It also comprises around 91% water, which makes it a particularly hydrating fruit.
One cup (152 grams) of watermelon provides you with the following:
- Calories: 46
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: less than 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 14% of the daily value
- Copper: 7% of the daily value
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): 7% of the daily value
- Provitamin A: 5% of the daily value
Watermelon is also rich in lutein and lycopene, two antioxidants that help protect your body against damage and disease.
For instance, these antioxidants may promote eye, brain, and heart health and potentially offer protection against certain types of cancer.
Some research suggests these specific antioxidants may also help lower the risk of preterm birth and other pregnancy complications. However, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Summary: Watermelon is rich in water and provides moderate amounts of carbs, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamins A and C. It’s also rich in lutein and lycopene, two antioxidants that may protect against certain pregnancy complications.
Watermelon may reduce the risk of preeclampsia
Watermelon is rich in lycopene, which gives tomatoes and similarly colored fruits and vegetables their rich red pigment.
One older study suggests that supplementing with 4 mg of lycopene per day — or around 60% of the lycopene found in 1 cup (152 grams) of watermelon — may help lower preeclampsia risk by up to 50%.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure, increased swelling, and protein loss in the urine. It’s a serious condition and a major cause of preterm birth.
Based on the finding that lycopene supplementation may reduce preeclampsia risk, lycopene-rich watermelon is commonly touted to protect women from developing preeclampsia during pregnancy. However, two more recent studies fail to find a link between the two.
It’s important to note that these studies used high-dose lycopene supplements to deliver lycopene, not watermelon. Currently, no studies link watermelon consumption with a lower risk of pre-eclampsia.
More research is needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.
Summary: Watermelon is rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of a pregnancy-related complication known as preeclampsia. However, more research is needed to confirm this.
Watermelon may lower the risk of side effects or complications in pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman’s daily fluid requirements increase to help support optimal blood circulation, amniotic fluid levels, and an overall higher blood volume. At the same time, digestion tends to slow down.
Combining these two changes may increase a woman’s risk of poor hydration. In turn, this increases her risk of constipation or hemorrhoids during pregnancy.
Suboptimal hydration during pregnancy may also be linked to poor fetal growth and a higher risk of preterm delivery and birth defects.
Watermelon’s rich water content may help pregnant women meet their increased fluid requirements, reducing their risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, and pregnancy complications.
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However, this can be said for all water-rich fruits or vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, zucchini, and even broccoli. Therefore, although technically accurate, this benefit is not exclusive to watermelon.
Summary: Watermelon is rich in water and may help pregnant women meet their increased fluid needs. In turn, optimal hydration may help lower the likelihood of developing constipation, hemorrhoids, or certain complications during pregnancy.
Possible safety concerns
Eating watermelon during pregnancy is generally considered safe.
However, this fruit is moderately rich in carbs and low in fiber, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike.
As such, women with preexisting diabetes or who develop high blood sugar levels in pregnancy — known as gestational diabetes — may want to avoid eating large portions of watermelon.
Like all fruit, watermelon should be washed thoroughly before slicing and eaten or refrigerated promptly.
To minimize the risk of food poisoning, pregnant women should also refrain from eating watermelon that has remained at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Summary: Watermelon is generally safe to eat during pregnancy. However, pregnant women should avoid eating sliced watermelon that has remained at room temperature for too long. Moreover, women with gestational diabetes should avoid eating large portions.
Watermelon is a hydrating fruit rich in various nutrients and health-beneficial compounds.
Eating it regularly during pregnancy may reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia, constipation, or hemorrhoids. Its rich water content may also lower the risk of poor fetal growth, preterm delivery, and birth defects.
However, the evidence for some of these benefits is weak, and in many cases, applicable to all fruits — not just watermelon.
Suggested read: Supplements during pregnancy: What’s safe and what’s not
Despite being touted to offer a long list of additional benefits during pregnancy, none of them are currently backed by science. Watermelon remains a nutrient-rich fruit and a great way to add variety to a pregnant woman’s diet.