Fasting During Pregnancy (Everything You Need To Know)

Pregnancy is a delicate stage for every woman; you are encouraged to eat more healthy food for you and your unborn baby.

In the case of Ramadan for Islams, fasting during pregnancy is almost a norm for them because of how important Ramadan is to the Muslim faithful.

Fasting during pregnancy is almost an ironic situation because you develop a wild appetite and experience unusual food cravings aside from the usually required food intake.

Fasting During Pregnancy, Is It Safe?

The answer to this question is unclear. Women have practiced fasting throughout history, and they have produced healthy children.

However, a new study warns women of the risks associated with this practice.

Research has indicated that fasting may result in low birth weight in babies during the first trimester, but the difference is marginal. 

In addition, research has shown that children may grow to be slightly shorter and thinner than average, but the difference is negligible.

However, it is recommended that pregnant women seek expert advice from medical professionals before fasting.

The third trimester is the period of pregnancy when the baby grows rapidly. 

During this time, the baby requires more nutrition and higher levels of minerals and vitamins to keep up with the accelerated growth.

Some research suggests that, aside from possible adverse effects on the growth rate, fasting during pregnancy in the third trimester is generally safe. 

Before deciding to fast, it is recommended that you seek proper medical advice.

Your doctor will check for any complications if you go without food for an extended period and advise you accordingly.

Read: Can I Breastfeed During Ramadan (Explained)

Fasting during pregnancy: Reasons Why Women Fast 

There are different reasons for fasting. It could be religious reasons, weight loss, or personal decisions.

However, it is good to note that food is essential for the development of the fetus. As much as women shouldn’t engage in fasting during pregnancy, certain situations make it difficult to decide.

The common and more understandable reasons women choose to fast during pregnancy are religious practices or weight loss.

Religion

Some religions like Islam make fasting mandatory for every Muslim to participate in fasting.

However, pregnant women and nursing mothers are permitted to be exempted from fasting because of malnutrition and impairing the baby’s growth if not well fed.

Weight Loss

Weight watching is another understandable reason why some women fast during pregnancy, due to how much weight gain pregnant women are susceptible to put on during pregnancy.

As a result, many women opt to fast during pregnancy to stay healthy.

Fasting during pregnancy is not advisable, but whatever your reasons, if you decide to fast during pregnancy, consult with a gynecologist before embarking on the fast to avert any risks for yourself and your unborn baby.

Effects of Fasting during pregnancy

Fasting during pregnancy has effects on both the mother and the unborn baby. 

No matter how minimally it affects women who fast during pregnancy, these effects are worth looking into if you’re going to fast while pregnant. 

  • Both mother and child stand the risk of malnutrition.
  • May lead to premature birth
  • In many cases, fasting during pregnancy has led to low birth weight in babies.
  • Fasting while pregnant may lead to dehydration in the mother.

Read: Fasting During breastfeeding (5 Healthy Tips To Help You Cope)

Nutritional Tips When Fasting During Pregnancy

If as an expectant mother, you’ve decided to fast while pregnant and have gotten the consent of your gynecologist.

Here are some tips on the type of foods to consume to keep you and your baby healthy and strong.

  • Consume foods with high vitamins and mineral content like iron and calcium. Mostly fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid high-fat and refined foods products
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking a lot of water will aid blood flow and reduce fatigue.
  • Proteinous foods like beans, eggs, meat, and fish should be included in your diet
  • Heavy carbs, which are slow-release energy foods, will compensate for the energy lost during the day. Foods like oatmeal, wholemeal bread, beans, and pasta.
  • Avoid physical activity during the fasting period, leaving your body tired.
  • Break the fast immediately if you feel too weak.
  • When it is time to break your fast, do it gently as your digestive system is slow.
  • Do not drink caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, green tea, and aerated drinks while breaking your fast.
  • Make a good schedule to accommodate a good time for relaxation.
  • Avoid stressful situations.
  • Have a positive mindset.

Things To Avoid When Fasting During Pregnancy

The following are the foods and activities to avoid if you’re fasting as an expectant mother. Some of these foods may leave you feeling drained, which is not suitable for your heart.

Caffeine

Avoid taking coffee or consuming any foods with caffeine as the primary ingredient. Although it may initially give you a euphoric feeling, it will gradually lead to dehydration.

Greasy foods

Consuming many fried foods or oily foods can cause heartburn. You should eat more cooked, roasted, or baked foods.

Acidic foods

Taking a lot of yogurt and other acidic drinks like lemon juice can also lead to heartburn.

Sugary drinks

Soda has a way of making one hyperactive, but it is only for a while before you’re drained again, but this time, you’d be feeling weaker due to the excessive amount of energy expended.

Stressful activities

Avoid activities that will cause you to sweat a lot because it will constantly leave you dehydrated and out of breath.

Things To Watch Out For

Deciding to fast while heavily pregnant puts both you and your baby at risk. 

You, as the mother, will be susceptible to exhaustion, low blood sugar, malnutrition, and general body weakness.

Also, your baby’s growth will be impaired due to an inadequate supply of the essential nutrients it requires to develop well. 

Here are some signs to look out for that might be an indication of impending danger;

Headache

If you’re experiencing headaches frequently while fasting during pregnancy, this may be a sign of dehydration that may lead to more complex health issues if not checked. 

Drinking a lot of water can help curb the issue of dehydration during pregnancy.

Other signs of dehydration may include

  • Deep yellowish urine
  • Dizziness
  • Acne or oily face
  • Dry lips and skin
  • General body weakness
  • Dehydration can also lead to Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), which pregnant women are susceptible to.

Unusual weight loss

Symptoms of unusual weight include feeling unusually lightweight. You may also notice a shrink in size. 

Regular checking of weight is included in antenatal sessions; note the weight difference from the beginning of the fasting to help you know when you’re losing too much weight than necessary and report to your gynecologist or midwife.

Alternatives To Fasting During Pregnancy

Whether for religious beliefs or personal decisions, there are alternatives to fasting daily as a pregnant woman.                              

In the case of fasting as a religious practice, all Faiths that include a compulsory fasting period make provision for pregnant and breastfeeding women to either place the fast on hold or give alms to substitute for the fasting.

Check whether you could replace a complete fast with other types of fasts.                 

You could try fruit fasting or water fasting while pregnant because they are less stressful than a “complete fast,” which requires you to go without water or food.

Also, instead of engaging in strict daily fasting for weight loss, it is better to cut down on certain foods while still eating healthily, which is also a form of fasting itself.

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Wind Up

As stated earlier, there are currently no definitive answers to the effects of fasting during pregnancy. 

Pregnancy causes many changes in the body, including weight gain and a baby who requires constant nutrition. 

There are several disadvantages to fasting during pregnancy, and these include an underweight baby, fatigue, dizzy spells, or fainting during pregnancy. It may also result in severe acidity.

Women who fast during pregnancy are at an increased risk of premature birth and dehydration during pregnancy.

If you decide to fast during pregnancy, you should keep the following points in mind: 

  • If there is a provision for not fasting during pregnancy, it is best to use it
  • A doctor’s advice is highly recommended. Please do not ignore it.
  • If, in the course of this exercise, you become too weak or you’re feeling unwell, gradually opt out or report to your gynecologist

While not being able to keep a fast may affect women emotionally, especially if it is a religious fast, do remember that your health and that of your baby are more important.

There’s always a next time when you can fast! Offer your heartfelt apologies to the Almighty, and take care of yourself.