Pregnant or breastfeeding women who wish to fast during Ramadan must first seek the opinion of their doctor to assess the risks
1 May 2019| Last updated on 19 April 2020
Those who may not be well enough to fast during Ramadan or are worried about their health or their baby's wellbeing are advised to talk to their doctor before deciding to fast.
Your doctor will consider your medical history and weigh up the risks before giving you clearance.
It is very important for anyone that is fasting, but especially while pregnant or breastfeeding, to take rest during the day and ensure the body gets adequate nutrition and calories when the fast is broken at iftar and suhoor.
Fasting during pregnancy
Pregnant women who are fasting should also ensure they are well hydrated and are eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean protein. When possible, avoid heavy meals high in unhealthy fats, salt or added sugar.
When cooking, substitute ingredients in your favorite iftar meals and avoid frying by grilling, baking or roasting. Add herbs and spices, and don’t go overboard with salt. And lastly, replace sugars with naturally-occurring sugar in fruits and dried fruits (dried fruits should be taken in moderation as they are higher in calories than fresh fruits).
Here are some helpful tips for fasting while pregnant:
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids (especially water, avoid sugary drinks as they are high in calories and sugar content)
- Eat healthy meals including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits (like dates) and vegetables that are high fiber and will help you feel full for a longer period
- Break your fast if you feel weak or have symptoms of dehydration
- Avoid activities that will leave you physically exhausted while fasting
- Rest and sleep well
It is important that fasting pregnant women monitor their condition and contact their doctors as soon as they experience weight loss, headaches, pain, fever, nausea or vomiting. Dehydration can make you more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs), so monitor for symptoms like dizziness, weakness and fatigue.
Seek the advice of a doctor immediately if there is a noticeable change in your baby’s movements, such as the baby is not moving around or kicking as much. If you experience contraction-like pains while fasting, this could be a sign of premature labor.
Some women will be recommended not to fast while pregnant if it could lead to developmental challenges for their baby. There is a general consensus that any women suffering from complications during pregnancy such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney infections or heart problems should refrain from fasting, so they do not aggravate their conditions.
Fasting while breastfeeding
Mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding their babies may be advised not to fast due to the reduced food intake and risk of fatigue and dehydration. Mothers of older babies who are taking supplementary food in addition to breastfeeding may fast, as it should not change the amount or composition of milk produced.
To maintain a continuous flow of milk and ensure breastfeeding is a success, women should:
- Eat sufficient food – breastfeeding mothers are generally recommended to eat up to 500 calories extra per day. Lots of fruits, vegetables and foods rich in minerals and calcium are also recommended
- Drink plenty of fluids – ideally three liters daily
- Get a minimum two hours rest prior to feeding their baby
- Ensure an average eight hours sleep per night
- Avoid stress
If breastfeeding mothers that are fasting begin to notice signs of dehydration, such as weakness, dizziness, fatigue or headaches, it is recommended they break their fast immediately by eating and drinking, and rest.
If symptoms continue, they must consult their doctors as soon as possible. If a fasting mother is concerned their baby is not getting enough milk, if the baby is crying constantly, has fewer wet diapers or loses weight, the mother should stop fasting immediately and contact their doctor.
To reiterate, pregnant or breastfeeding women who wish to fast during Ramadan must first seek the opinion of their doctor to assess the risks.
Authored by Dr. Nadine Aoun
Dr. Nadine Aoun