Fasting in Pregnancy

Being pregnant makes you feel on cloud nine. You do your best to ensure a healthy pregnancy. You eat healthy and timely, and follow all the instructions suggested by the doctor. Pregnancy is a long period of nine months which covers almost a year. Therefore, it is evident that you would be coming across some festivals during this time. Different religions have different beliefs related to their customs and deities and people do follow them by heart. However, when it comes to religious fasting, you fall in dilemma when you are pregnant.

For Hindus, the common fasting festivals include Navratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Karwa Chauth which are bound to fall during your pregnancy period. While for Muslims, the month of Ramdan is the most pious and followers consider it as obligatory and highly religious. No matter you are fasting for which festival, the only concern is that how you will fulfill your religious sentiments without affecting your baby.

While on one side, you are advised to have something as soon as you get up from bed; the idea of fasting seems a bit impossible. A lot of questions and fears pop up in your mind. Religious beliefs make us adhere to values like fasting. But can’t a pregnant woman be exempted from fast? Or is it really very unsafe to observe fast during pregnancy? And if you do fast what will be the dos and don’ts? There will be a series of questions whose answers you will be searching impatiently.

Well, here I would like to share my experience with you. When I was pregnant, I came across Navratri and Karwa Chauth during my pregnancy. Being a Hindu, I have observed fast every year. But this time I was a little scared. I did not want to break my religious commitments but at the same time I had this fear that fasting could harm my baby. Despite the continuous insisting by my husband and family members, I observed my fasts. Though, it was not very tough but yes, I did follow certain instructions and took very much care of myself.

So, here when today you are going through similar phase, let me share you what instructions, rules, do’s and don’ts, you need to follow while fasting.

Some answers to questions hitting your mind.

Is it safe?

Though, a lot of studies have been done in this regard but till date there is not any clear answer. However, observing a safe fast depends on you and your physical condition. If you feel strong and your pregnancy is normal then you can go for it.

However, if you are feeling weak, dehydrated especially in your first trimester, do not take risks. Fasting will only worsen the condition. If you fail to decide on your own, ask your practitioner and he/she can suggest you well by examining your physical and medical conditions.

Risks of Fasting during Pregnancy

Generally, the problems are

  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Acidity
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Limbs pain

Will my Body Cope up with Fasting?

It depends on your weight and lifestyle. If you are in a good health during your pregnancy, your body can bear the fast. Moreover, it also depends on your pregnancy stage and length of the time you fast.

Common Tips before and during Fasting

Getting prepared

It would be helpful to plan ahead of fasting especially if it is the holy month of Ramdan. First make a visit to your midwife to check for your health or any complications. Go for check up for gestational diabetes, anemia, blood pressure and other complicated issues. Secondly, cut your coffee and tea if you consume a lot otherwise, you will face withdrawal symptoms.

Take help of dietician to help you plan a healthy diet when you break your fast. If working, try to get some waiver in your work load and work time.

Slow down as you fast

The less active you are, lesser your body needs from you. Therefore, try to avoid any physically exhausting and strenuous work like shopping, brisk walking, exercising etc so that your body does not demand much energy. Also, your uterus will be less active so you would not feel much urge to have something frequently.

Keep an eye on warning signs

Contact your doctor if:

  • You are not gaining weight regularly while fasting. Putting on weight is essential to ensure baby growth and development.
  • In case you feel urination less frequently and that too dark colored and strong smelling, it means you are facing dehydration which can lead to urinary tract infections.
  • You develop headache and dizziness.
  • You feel nauseous and vomiting.
  • Feel blurred vision.
  • Have even light bleeding.
  • Noticeable change in your contractions (increased or decreased). If you feel uterine contractions, drink fluids and try to stop them and even if does not work, call for your doctor immediately.

Stick to healthy and safe options while fasting

Though, in some religions, it is not allowed to take anything during the fast but some allow for non-cereal foods like fruits, vegetables, milk and other juices. So, pick some healthy fruit and vegetables to get essential nutrients.

To avoid dehydration, try to be inside during peak heat hours. Keep yourself hydrated with healthy drinks like fresh fruit juices.

Breaking your fast

During fast, when you do not eat for whole day, your digestive system slows down. Therefore, when your fast is over on next day, it is advisable to start with a glass of juice or coconut water. Follow that with light meal.

Be positive while fasting

Being positive is a very powerful attitude as it maintains your energy. If you start your fast with negative feelings of fear and difficulty, it will bother you mentally and physically. A fast is always associated with some religious sentiments so make those sentiments your power and pray god to bless you with the stamina, energy and patience.

Some alternatives of fasting

Whether it’s a custom or your deep belief that missing fast can make you upset. You can opt for some alternatives if you could agree to following:

  • If possible, fast only on the starting and ending day.
  • Keep it alternatively or weekly.
  • Substitute your fast with something like maunvrat.
  • Try to take advantage of some exemptions.
  • If possible, share your fast with some family members.

Some special and obligatory fasts

Fasting during Karwa Chauth

In Indian culture, Karwa Chauth is considered as an important fast for the long life and well being of husband and family. However, unlike other fasts, you are not allowed to take even a sip of water in this fast. Moreover, you are not allowed to break the cycle.

To your rescue, you can follow some common tips to go through this day without affecting yourself and your baby.

  • While having sargi, make sure you take glass of milk, bananas and other energy giving fruits.
  • Take some exemption this year and eat some fruits or take some milk during the day.
  • Try to distract yourself as much as you can. Take long nap and enjoy the watching TV and movies.
  • Do not indulge in strenuous and physical works.

Fasting in Ramdan

Ramdan fasting is followed obligatory and religiously by its believers. It is said to be a tough time as you are not allowed to eat anything between dusk and dawn. Even some people do not swallow their own mouth secretions throughout the day. Though, Allah has left the decision of fasting upon you as a pregnant woman, you must consult doctor and priest to know how best you can handle such situation.

Some common tips during Ramdan fasting:

  • During Ramdan, you can have food as suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and Iftar (meal at dusk). So, try to take advantage of this opportunity and pack yourself with some healthy and energetic food. Also, take plenty of drinks so that you do not dehydrate.
  • Some foods raise blood sugar level quickly which then drops faster and makes you feel tired and dizzy. So avoid such foods.
  • Foods like complex carbohydrates, pulses, vegetables and dried fruits release energy slowly so as to keep you active and energetic for long. This also prevents constipation.
  • Ensure to take plenty of proteins during your two meals as protein is very important baby’s growth and development.
  • As you are pregnant, you need not follow strict instructions and you can take fluids between dusk and dawn. So, drink plenty of water and other fluids. Avoid tea and coffee which causes loss of water from your body.
  • If you have planned to visit Ramdan tent during pregnancy, you need to be extra cautious as the place is quite smoky. Moreover, do not fall for buffet food as it may be lying there for hours.
  • During Ramdan, your family and friends may stay with you till date. However, take care not to be too tired.
  • Complete your Eid shopping before the fast begins so that you need not move out during fasting.
  • Stock up your fridge with non-perishable and frozen groceries so that you can avoid trips to grocery store.
  • Last but not the least is listening to the body signals. Your baby can tell you himself what he needs through changes in your body, only if you pay attention and feel attached.