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Pregnancy and fasting safely

10 Apr 2022

Muscat – Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection. Fasting is a way for Muslims during Ramadan to strengthen their faith, develop self-control and grow compassion for the less fortunate.

If you are pregnant, you may be concerned about whether fasting during Ramadan may affect your health and that of your unborn child.

The dilemma over fasting during Ramadan bothers many expectant mothers. Concerns over the safety of fasting during pregnancy worry many.

Fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for all healthy able-bodied Muslims. A pregnant woman in good physical condition who believes she can fast without fear for her health or her baby’s, can do so.

If you find yourself unable to fast, there are ways you can make up for it by giving to charity, fasting on alternate days or once/twice in a week or even on days outside Ramadan in compensation.

It is a decision every woman has to make after weighing the pros and cons seeing her health condition. In general, any pregnant woman who suffers from complications during pregnancy, like high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney infections and heart problems, must refrain from fasting.

Benefits vs risks
Ramadan is a holy month with health benefits in addition to helping cleanse the spirit and bringing peace of mind.

Outside of pregnancy, fasting can help increase one’s metabolism rate that allows burning excess calories and preventing weight gain.

Few studies have shown that women who fast during pregnancy have lower risk of developing gestational diabetes than women who do not fast. However, often experts agree that fasting during pregnancy may also result in negative side effects. This is because pregnant women require more nutrients than usual and getting less nutrients during pregnancy may place strain on their bodies alongside a risk of low birth weight of the baby or premature delivery.

Women with pre-gestational diabetes should consult their diabetes specialist to know how to monitor their blood sugar in order to adjust their medication.

Tips to fast safely
If you have decided to fast during pregnancy, you may be wondering how you can do so safely. Here are a few tips, considering your and your baby’s health.

  • Do not skip suhoor; make sure to eat an energy-rich pre-dawn meal. Eat fruits and drink enough water. Avoid fried and spicy food.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water at suhoor and iftar to avoid dehydration; maintain good urine output and avoid constipation.
  • Break your fast with a healthy meal, including proteins, fruits, dates and fiber. Avoid overeating, high carbs and processed food.
  • Break the fast in case you feel too weak.
  • Avoid activities which leave you physically exhausted while fasting.
  • Take enough rest and sleep well.
  • Take your vitamins and other health supplements as prescribed by the doctor during suhoor or iftar.
  • If you have diabetes, check the blood sugar level according to your doctor’s advice or if you feel dizzy or sick.

During Ramadan, pregnant women can do simple exercise, including brisk walking, swimming and modified yoga or Pilates. Exercise helps stay active and avoid back pain and weight gain.

Consult your doctor in case you experience any of the following:

  • Lose weight during pregnancy
  • Feel very thirsty or urinate less than usual or if the colour of urine is dark
  • In case of headache, dizziness nausea or vomiting
  • If there is any noticeable change in your baby’s movements
  • If you notice contractions – like pain. This could be a sign of premature labour.
  • Feel dizzy, weak, tired, confused or faint. Break your fast immediately and consult your doctor.

In general, it is suggested that women should not fast during the first and third trimester of pregnancy.

(Contributed by Dr Asama Jabeen Mir, Gynaecologist, Al Hayat International Hospital)

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