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Is fasting safe for my baby?

There's no clear answer. Despite research (Cross 1990, CIA/NHS 2007), we can't be sure that fasting is safe for you and your baby (NHS Choices 2010, Robinson and Raisler 2005).

Fasting appears to be safe if:

* you feel strong and well enough
* your pregnancy is going well
* you're in your second trimester (CIA/NHS 2007, Cross-Sudworth 2007, NHS Choices 2010)

However, if you don't feel well enough, Islamic law gives you clear permission not to fast (NHS Choices 2010). You should talk to your GP or midwife and get a general health check before deciding to fast.

Some studies show little or no effect on newborn babies whose mothers fasted (Dickensoy et al 2008, 2009, Ziaee et al 2009). Others suggest health problems later in life, or that children's academic abilities may be affected if their mothers fasted during pregnancy (Almond and Mazumber 2011, Almond et al 2012, van Ewijk 2011).

Most of the studies on fasting in pregnancy are small, so it's difficult to know for sure. And it's hard to compare different studies in different countries, which are carried out in different ways.

One factor is the time of year that the fast takes place (CIA/NHS 2007, Cross-Sudworth 2007). Where fasts last longer and temperatures are high, dehydration may be a concern. So if Ramadan coincides with summer, this means hot weather and long days.

Here’s what the research has told us so far:

* Apgar scores of babies of women who fasted showed no real difference from babies of women who didn't fast (Arab 2001, Cross 1990, Mirghani 2006).

* Some women who fast during pregnancy may go on to have a baby with a lower-birth weight, especially if the fasting takes place in the first trimester (Almond and Mazumber 2011, Ziaee et al 2009). Other studies found that the difference in birth weight due to fasting in pregnancy is very small, at an average of 18g (0.6oz) to 40g (1.4oz) (Almond and Mazumber 2008, 2011).

* Women experience changes in the chemical balance of their blood while fasting. But the changes don't appear to be harmful to you or your baby (Cross-Sudworth 2007, Dickensoy 2009).

There have been concerns about whether there is a link between fasting and how well a baby grows in the uterus (womb) and premature labour. Some studies suggest that more babies are born early if their mothers fast during Ramadan (Almond and Mazumder 2008), though this varies according to which country you live in.

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