As the holy month of Ramadan is approaching, we are sure you’re gearing up to fasting. However, as a Muslim woman who is pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive, you may be wondering if it is safe to fast during Ramadan, especially since it is not just yours, but your baby’s health that could be put at risk. This article answers your questions about fasting while pregnant and tells you what not to do while fasting during Ramadan.
Do Pregnant Women Have to Fast During Ramadan?
No, there is no compulsion for pregnant women to fast during Ramadan. Islamic teachings give permission to pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers to opt-out of fasting to prevent any potential harm to themselves or their babies. Fasting during pregnancy can affect the mother’s and child’s health, especially if there are pre-existing health conditions or complications determined. Dehydration or low nutrient levels can make the mother’s body weaker and also cut off or drastically lower the supply of nutrients to the baby. In the recent past, Ramadan has fallen during the summer months, and therefore fasting can cause dehydration faster in high heat levels, hampering kidney function and decreasing the fluid surrounding the baby in the womb.
Additionally, irregular spikes in blood sugar levels can increase the risk of gestational diabetes. There is also evidence that suggests women who fast during their pregnancy end up giving birth to low babies with lower birth weights. Hence, it is advised that pregnant women not fast during Ramadan.
Deciding whether or not to fast is a personal decision that also depends on each woman’s health and pregnancy. However, if you do decide to fast, we suggest that you consult a doctor beforehand who can conduct a checkup and rule out any risks that fasting may pose to your baby. Taking a doctor’s advice is essential when making a decision on whether or not to fast during pregnancy.
What if You Decide Not to Fast?
If you decide not to fast during Ramadan, you can make up for it by fasting at a later date. Another option is to perform ‘fidyah’ where you provide food to someone in poverty for every missed day of fasting.
What if You Decide to Fast? Will it Be Manageable?
Though not recommended, fasting during pregnancy in Ramadan is a personal decision. Make sure you consult your midwife or doctor before taking a final decision. If you are given the go-ahead, there are certain steps you can take to make fasting during pregnancy more manageable.
Rather than fasting on all days of the month, take small breaks. You could fast every alternate day or on weekends, so your body has some time to recuperate and fill up on nutrition on other days. Dehydration is a huge concern during this time, so watch out for dark-coloured urine, dizziness, headaches, etc. If you feel confused, weak or tired during the day, immediately break your fast with a sweet drink and a salty snack which will give you energy and also stabilise blood pressure levels. Keep an oral rehydration solution (ORS) on standby as well. Drink plenty of fluids in the form of water, soups, cool drinks, and more during ‘suhoor’ and ‘iftar’ meals. Also, ensure you take all your supplements and eat a balanced diet that will provide you and your baby with nutrition and energy.
Remember, your and your baby’s health comes first during pregnancy. Fasting during Ramadan is not a compulsion for pregnant women, so you need not opt for it during this time. As always, keep your midwife or doctor informed, so they are prepared in case of any emergencies.