Though much research has been conducted in the area, there is no definitive answer to the question of whether fasting during pregnancy is safe for both the mother and the baby. Some studies have suggested that fasting during the first trimester may increase the chances of premature birth or low birth weight as well as exacerbate pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness. Fasting during the last trimester of pregnancy may compromise the growth of the fetus and lead to developmental issues. For healthy women with low-risk pregnancies however, fasting appears to be more or less harmless.
Bear in mind that you should not feel pressurized to fast in the month of Ramadan. Islam enables pregnant and breast feeding women to make up for missed fasts later on.
If you’re a pregnant woman who plans to fast in the upcoming month of Ramadan, here are some important steps you should take.
1. Consult a Physician
It is not sufficient for expectant mothers to rely on how they are feeling when deciding whether or not to fast. Often, fasting can have adverse effects on your body without you ever becoming aware of them. The risk level varies significantly from woman to woman and is related to diseases such as diabetes and pre-existing threats of miscarriage or preterm labor. Your obstetrician should be able to assess this risk and let you know whether it’s safe for you to fast as well as what specific safety measures you should take when fasting to ensure the health of your baby.
If you’ve received permission from your doctor, then make sure to take the following precautions.
2. Look Out for Warning Signs
If you experience symptoms such as weight loss, severe dehydration, indigestion, constipation, nausea, lethargy, dizziness, headaches, fever, a reduction in the baby’s movement in the womb or labor-like pains, make sure to contact your physician immediately. These could all be indications that your body cannot cope with the physical stress of fasting and that you may need to stop.
3. Drink Lots of Water
Dehydration is one of the most important risks that fasting Pregnant Women should be aware of, especially in hot climates like our own. Dehydration can lead to Braxton Hix contractions (hardening of the tummy), a decrease in the baby’s activity, and in extreme cases preterm labor. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, dry skin, dry mouth, dizziness, intense thirst and dark urine. Try to drink as much water as you can, at regular intervals between Iftaar and Sehri. As caffeine is a diuretic (it causes increased passing of urine), you should also try to avoid caffeinated beverages.
Pregnant women who are fasting reportedly experience higher stress levels than those who are not. The cumulative physical exertion of both fasting and pregnancy can take its toll on your health. Make sure you are getting sufficient sleep, as it is common to sleep late during the month of Ramadan. Keep cool, avoid physical activity and take regular rests.
5. Eat healthy
It’s important to consume adequate requirements to give your baby enough nutrients. Your doctor can help you come up with a healthy diet plan and recommend prenatal supplements. Avoid eating oily, high-fat, and processed foods as these foods lack nutritional value and can cause indigestion. You should have a wholesome Sehri, comprising energy-rich, high-fiber foods such as grains and pulses. Complex carbohydrates like those found in pasta, should be eaten in preference to simple ones as they release energy slowly, over longer periods of time. It is also recommended to eat slowly, and in moderation at Iftaar.
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