Fasting in pregnancy
Is it safe to fast during pregnancy ?
There is no clear answer, even though medical studies have looked at the effects of fasting.
Here’s what we do know:
- Several studies looked at birth weights. They found no significant difference between the babies of mothers who fasted, and the babies of mothers who did not fast.
- Some studies have looked at the baby’s IQ and found no differences.
- Some studies took blood samples from fasting mothers and found that changes did occur. But the changes did not appear to harm the mothers or their babies. The studies compared the babies' birth weights and found no difference.
Women whose weight and lifestyle are generally healthy seem to cope well with fasting. And it may depend on several factors, such as:
- What stage you are in your pregnancy – in general fasting in pregnancy is best tolerated by mothers in the second trimester.
- Your general health before pregnancy and presence of any problems during the pregnancy.
What do other women do ?
Many – and probably the majority – of pregnant Muslim women choose to fast in Ramadan. Some surveys suggest up to 70 per cent of women will choose to fast (tell us what you have decided!).
Islam allows pregnant mothers not to fast if there are any concerns of effects of fasting on the individual mother or baby, provided the mother replaces the fast later, after the pregnancy is over. Those with diabetes in pregnancy may want to discuss it with their doctors first. Talk to your family, your doctor and a trusted religious authority to help you consider your options.
Is there anything I should do before fasting ?
Plan ahead to make things easier during Ramadan.
- Talk to your employer about managing your work during Ramadan. Some companies have their operational or working hours reduced during this time.
- Start preparing early by doing shopping and errands before the fast.
What's the best way to break the fast ?
Be sure to have a variety of healthy food and plenty to drink when you break your fast and at sahur.
- Choose foods that release energy slowly - such as dates, beans and lentils – to break the fast.
- Avoid sugary foods that will raise your blood sugar levels quickly – it will also drop quickly, and this can make you feel faint and dizzy.
- Make sure you get plenty of protein from beans, nuts and well-cooked meat and eggs. Protein is needed to help your baby grow well.
- Drink plenty of fluids overnight. You can become dehydrated especially when Ramadan falls in very hot weather.
Read more about eating for a healthy pregnancy.
Are there warning signs I should know about ?
Contact your doctor if:
- You feel dizzy, faint, weak or tired. Rest for half an hour to see if you feel better. If there is no change, talk to your doctor.
- You become nauseous or start vomiting.
- There is a noticeable change in your baby’s movements. If you feel that your baby is not moving around or kicking much, it is very important to talk with your doctor.
- You become very thirsty or your urine becomes dark-coloured and strong-smelling. This is a sign of dehydration.
- You notice contraction-like pains. This could be a sign of premature labour and you should talk to your doctor straight away.
- You are not putting on weight, or are losing weight.
- You develop a headache or other pains, or a fever.
Read more about pregnancy symptoms you should never ignore.
How can I make fasting in pregnancy easier ?
There are various measures you can take:
- Plan your days so that you can take regular rests.
- Avoid walking long distances and carrying anything heavy.
- Keep cool – you can become dehydrated quickly and that's not good for you or your baby.
- Ask the other women in your family for tips and suggestions about how to cope while you are pregnant.
- Eat and drink wisely when you break your fast.
Generally, just take things easy and accept help when it is offered. Although the rest of your family and friends may stay up late, you may need to mark this Ramadan with more quiet, restful time.
I'm still unsure about whether or not to fast; what should I do ?
Discuss your concerns with your family, your doctor, and a trusted religious authority.
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