Can Pregnant Women Fast? Here's What Experts Say
Fasting is no longer just a religious exercise, it is also a fitness one. But is it safe when you're pregnant?
Many religions embrace fasting as an important part of their doctrine; members are encouraged to fast periodically, especially during special celebrations. Muslims traditionally fast during Ramadan. Some Christians fast for Lent. As Muslims gear up to begin another Ramadan season, it's wise to ask what happens to pregnant women. Can pregnant women fast? What is safe and what is pushing it? Because as we all know, pregnancy is a very delicate time both for the mom and the baby's health.
Can Pregnant Women Fast?
There's no easy answer to this question, mainly because there's no hard and fast rule to fasting while pregnant; not as long as you give your health top priority.
Fasting during pregnancy is a sensitive situation. Some research has shown that staying away from food when you're pregnant can cause your liver to produce ketone bodies. Ketones are molecules your liver makes when you're not eating. And they may have a negative impact on your growing baby.
Also, when you are pregnant, you're responsible for your baby's nutrition. And this means your body needs more nutrients. Some people even like to eat for two, even though this can cause obesity. And this is a major reason why people think pregnant women should be exempted from fasting.
But the only thing that stands in the way of any fast is medical conditions. According to IslamQA, fasting should not be a hardship on anyone; so if a pregnant woman feels that it will be harmful to her or her baby, then she is not allowed to fast. But she must pay those days back later in the year before the next Ramadan.
But no two pregnancies are exactly alike; so the important thing to do is to talk to your obstetrician before considering whether or not it’s safe for you and your baby if you fast. It may depend on certain factors, like the trimester you’re currently in; or any underlying medical conditions you and your baby might have.
The first trimester is an important stage in your pregnancy, and you need lots of nutrients to support baby's development. Fasting at this stage is risky and can cause complications. So, experts don't advise fasting in the first three months.
How Can A Pregnant Woman Fast? Here Are 5 Tips For Fasting While You're Pregnant
No matter what you and your doctor decide, staying hydrated is key. Water is important for your baby's development, so at no point should you stop drinking water. Dehydration can lead to low amniotic fluid, preterm labour and birth defects. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day and avoid strenuous activities that may cause a loss of fluids.
The truth is pregnant women shouldn't be consuming massive amounts of caffeine anyway. But, if you are a committed coffee-drinker, start weaning yourself from coffee and on to green tea a few days before the fast. You should find a significant decrease in headache and fatigue. Caffeine has astringent properties and can interfere with hydration, so you'll also be aiding your system by allowing for more water retention.
For a few days before the fast and on the eve of the fast, drink, drink, drink and then drink some more. Ideally, you should still be urinating a few hours before the fast ends; that is a good sign that your body is still well hydrated. Hydration is most important. And make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. If you don't have an A/C unit in your home, invest in good fans. Keeping your body temperature normal is essential to keeping yourself hydrated and hence your baby safe during a fast. And avoid fasting for long periods of time.
Don't underestimate the power of a positive attitude. There's a beautiful Jewish saying "tracht gut vet zein gut"; it means "think good and it will be good." If you go into the fast with a negative attitude about how difficult it's going to be, it probably will be pretty difficult. But if you get yourself fired up mentally before the fast, you'll be in a totally different headspace when the fast rolls in.
If you're a high-risk pregnancy, don't even think about fasting. And if you observe any danger signs, visit your doctor immediately. Danger signs that may warrant breaking the fast include:
- Bleeding (even light)
- Contractions (4 or more in 1 hour)
- A clear decrease in fetal movement
- Blurred vision and/or intense headache
- Extreme fatigue
- Extreme weakness
A pregnant woman experiencing any of the above symptoms must seek immediate medical counsel from her healthcare provider.