Approximately, 7 out of 10 pregnant Muslim women in the UK fast during Ramadan every year. We’ve put together a post that answers some of your most common questions when it comes to fasting during your pregnancy with the hope that it can help you! Please remember that fasting whilst you are pregnant is completely a personal choice and this post has not been written to make anyone who does decide to fast or not fast feel bad.
If you’re wondering about breastfeeding and fasting, we’ve written a post just for you here.
Disclaimer: Please seek advice from a scholar from your sect with regards to any rulings on fasting whilst pregnant. This is a general post.
Should I Fast?
Like breastfeeding, the general consensus when it comes to fasting during your pregnancy in Ramadan is that if you feel that you are able to fast without causing any harm to you or your foetus, then it is recommended that you fast. If you feel that fasting will adversely affect you or your child, then it is advisable not to fast.
As outlined in Surah Baqarah [2:185]:
“and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days”
Many Islamic scholars believe that pregnant women and breastfeeding women fall under this “ill” category of people mentioned in the above Quranic verse and should be exempt from fasting. It is not wajib of you to fast.
If you do want to fast, you can also commit to partial fasting where you fast every alternative day or fast for 2-3 days with a day break in between. This will help you to remain energised and strong during your pregnancy.
Just remember, if you choose not to fast, you can pay these back later. Whether you do fidyah of feeding the poor is dependent on your sect so please do seek advice from a scholar.
Is Fasting Harmful to My Pregnancy and Unborn Child?
It is natural to be worried about fasting for long hours whilst carrying a child. Many studies have been carried out to see if there would be any effect on both the woman and the foetus and we’ve outlined a few of the results below:
- It was found that maternal fasting did not lead to a low birth weight nor did it contribute to a premature baby being born. However further studies must be carried out to accurately determine whether there is an adverse effect on mothers and the child.
- A study carried out in a hospital in Iraq in 2018 found that fasting during your second trimester of your pregnancy can actually decrease your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes and prevent you from gaining excessive weight!
- It has also been shown that pregnant women who do fast may experience dehydration from little water or a lack of energy due to a reduced food intake through the day.
It is always advisable before you do start fasting to check with your midwife or doctor. They will assess you on how your pregnancy has been so far, how far along you are, if you have had any complications etc. If they deem that it is not suitable for you to fast, do not feel bad as this is the best and healthiest option for you and your child.
How Can I Prepare For Fasting During My Pregnancy?
Here are a few tips to help you if you decide to fast during your pregnancy:
- Be sure to let your midwife or doctor know that you will be fasting so that they are able to perform any necessary health checks and give you advice with regards to your dietary needs. You may need more frequent checkups during Ramadan if you do choose to fast.
- The best time to exercise is 2 hours after iftar so you do not over-exert yourself beforehand.
- Do any exertive chores like getting the nursery ready before Ramadan begins so that you are able to take it easy for the month
- Get plenty of rest during the day when you are fasting. This may seem a bit difficult if you have older children but if they are napping or occupied, try sneak in a snooze. This will help to keep your energy levels up.
- Eat well-balanced and extremely nutritious iftars and suhoors that are filled with complex carbohydrates like oats, barley, beans, lentils and millet, as well as proteins, fruits, vegetables, monounsaturated oils and fibre. If you are in your last trimester, you will need to be consuming an extra 200 calories daily so be sure to factor this into your iftar and suhoor meals.
- To avoid indigestion, eat smaller meals between iftar and suhoor. Be sure to take a pass on greasy foods as it can give you heartburn.
- Talk to your employer about managing your workload during Ramadan. You may be able to reduce your working hours or take more breaks.
- Once fast breaks, it is a good idea to drink lots of water until suhoor time to ensure you are fully hydrated before the next fast begins but be sure to have water intervals rather than drinking lots at once. It is best to avoid caffeine and fizzy drinks as these can cause more dehydration.
- Do not skip suhoor as your body will need these calories to give you the energy to fast and nourish your child.
- Do not forget to take your daily multivitamins, folic acid and vitamin D tablets.
When Should I Not Fast?
Fasting the whole day can make anyone thirsty but if you are pregnant, dehydration can lead to low amniotic fluid, birth defects and preterm labour. If you notice any of the early symptoms of dehydration (dark coloured urine, feeling dizzy, headaches, tiredness), it is vital that you break your fast and replenish yourself with either diorylate or a sweet drink with a salty snack. If you still are not feeling great after 30 minutes of breaking your fast, please contact a health professional immediately.
If you have diabetes or have developed gestational diabetes as a result of your pregnancy, it is best to avoid fasting during Ramadan as fasting can cause your blood sugar level to drop during the day. Once fast breaks and you have eaten, your blood sugar levels may become too high which is not safe. If you do have any of these two conditions and are fasting, it is advised to immediately break your fast if you start to feel faint.
If you have any other health concerns like low iron, kidney infections, heart problems etc, then it is suggested not to fast at all.
Other things to watch out for:
- If you find that you are losing weight or are not putting on enough weight, this could be harmful to your unborn child and it is best to stop fasting. Weigh yourself frequently to ensure you are not losing too much weight or not putting on enough weight.
- If you start to feel contraction like pains, this could be preterm labour and you must go to a hospital immediately
- If you start to feel nausea or begin to vomit
- If you notice a slow down in the baby’s movements in the womb
Just remember, fasting during pregnancy is a very personal decision and if you feel that you are not able to, it is okay! You can always pay back these fasts at a later date. You are doing great either way 🙂
Disclaimer: It is always best to seek advice from a scholar for your particular sect in Islam as the advice may differ.
- Perspectives and pregnancy outcomes of maternal Ramadan fasting in the second trimester of pregnancy, Kolsoom Safari, Tiran Jamil Piro & Hamdia Mirkhan Ahmad
- The Effect of Ramadan Fasting on Outcome of Pregnancy, Vahid Ziaee MD, Zarintaj Kihanidoost MD, Masoud Younesian MD