One of the most common questions about fasting is whether or not it is safe for pregnant women to fast. Let’s discuss the potential benefits and downsides of fasting while pregnant.
Fasting During Pregnancy
It’s safe to fast during pregnancy, but there are some things to consider.
If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard about fasting—maybe from your friends and family or online. You might be thinking about trying it yourself.
Fasting is a great way to experience food restriction’s physical and mental benefits. But it’s important to know that there are some things you need to watch out for while you’re fasting during pregnancy—and make sure your doctor knows if you’re doing it!
Intermittent Fasting During Pregnancy
Intermittent fasting during pregnancy is a popular topic of discussion in nutrition, but what does it mean to fast? And how safe is it?
Fasting means not eating at all for a period of time. When you’re pregnant, intermittent fasting means you’ll eat less than you normally would.
While there isn’t much research on the effects of intermittent fasting during pregnancy, some studies show that it can be beneficial to your health and your baby’s development. Some women even report feeling more energetic after a fast.
pregnant woman drinking water by window at home.
Fasting During Pregnancy First Trimester
In the first trimester of pregnancy, you might wonder how long you should fast. The answer is, that it depends on the type of test you’re getting and why.
If you have a blood test, you’ll need to fast for at least 8 hours before your appointment. This will give your body time to eliminate toxins that might interfere with the results.
If you’re having an ultrasound or CT scan (which doesn’t involve needles), then it’s okay not to fast beforehand.
If you have questions about fasting before your appointment, talk with your doctor!
Fasting During Pregnancy Second Trimester
It’s important to know that fasting during pregnancy is generally not recommended. That said, if you’re fasting during your second trimester, there are some precautions you can take.
First and foremost: If you have any questions or concerns about fasting during pregnancy, talk to your doctor before starting any fasting regimen.
As for what to do when fasting during pregnancy:
- Make sure you drink enough water. You’ll need more than usual because your body will use extra energy for digestion. This can lead to dehydration if you don’t replace those fluids.
- Keep an eye on your blood pressure and heart rate. If they start to rise too high, stop fasting immediately and seek medical attention from a doctor or midwife who knows about eating disorders and their effects on pregnant women.
Fasting During Pregnancy Third Trimester
If you’re pregnant and considering fasting during your third trimester, you want to ensure it’s done safely.
In the third trimester, you can no longer get up and walk around as much as you did in the first and second trimesters. Your baby is growing rapidly now, and your body is working hard to help it grow. You may feel more tired than usual, or have less energy than usual.
If you’re thinking about fasting while pregnant, please consult with your doctor first. They will be able to guide you on whether or not fasting is safe for you at this stage of pregnancy.
Benefits of Fasting During Pregnancy
Fasting during pregnancy is a great way to help maintain your health and is especially beneficial for pregnant women.
- Fasting during pregnancy will help you become more conscious of the food you are eating, which can help you make better decisions about what you feed your baby.
- Fasting during pregnancy can reduce anxiety and stress, both of which are known to cause problems in pregnancy such as pre-term labour or miscarriage. This is because fasting helps balance out hormones and blood sugar levels, both of which can contribute to anxiety and stress.
- Fasting during pregnancy may help reduce the chances that you’ll develop gestational diabetes later on in your pregnancy by improving insulin sensitivity (which means less insulin resistance).
- Fasting during pregnancy can also help lower blood pressure levels (which may also contribute to fewer problems).
Is Fasting Safe During Pregnancy
Fasting during pregnancy is safe if you do it right.
Doctors recommend that pregnant women eat three meals daily and snack between meals to stabilise their blood sugar levels. But many women find they can’t eat enough to stay full and meet their nutritional needs, especially during the first trimester, when nausea and morning sickness can be particularly bad. That’s when fasting becomes a good option for some women.
Side Effects of Fasting During Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant and considering fasting, it’s important to know that there are potential side effects. While fasting is generally safe during pregnancy, if you have any health issues or concerns, it’s always best to consult a doctor before starting a new diet.
Here are some of the most common side effects of fasting during pregnancy:
- Loss of appetite
- Heart Palpitations
- Muscle Cramps
Does Fasting Affect Baby During Pregnancy
Yes, fasting does affect the baby during pregnancy.
In fact, there are a number of studies that show that fasting during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, premature birth and even infant death.
When you fast during pregnancy, your body needs to find other ways to get energy. This can come from breaking down fat cells in the body. This process can use up fatty acids needed by your baby for growth and development.
If you are planning on fasting while pregnant, it is best to consult with your doctor first so they can help you decide if it is safe for both yourself and your baby or not.
Ramadan Fasting During Pregnancy
Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual activities from dawn until sunset. Fasting is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility and spirituality and is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of Allah and to offer more prayer than usual.
During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint, good deeds and prayers.
According to Islamic law, pregnant women are not required to fast during Ramadan if they fear harm to themselves or the fetus.
If a pregnant woman misses any fasts during Ramadan, she must make them up before the next Ramadan or by Sha’ban. If she fails to do so and has no valid excuse, she will be guilty of sin and must make up the fasts as well as feeding one needy person for each day missed.
You should not ignore this special permission if you feel that fasting could cause harm to you or your baby because ‘God gives you the exemption as mercy. It would be rude not to accept. This means that allowances are made for fetal and maternal health.
If you plan to observe your holy days by fasting, make sure your doctor or midwife knows that you plan to fast, and exactly what that means:
- how long you will fast,
- whether you may drink water, and
- what rules govern your options if you start to feel poorly.
Fasting can be dangerous if you are already dehydrated from nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, or if you have a medical condition like diabetes. If your practitioner objects to your fasting, follow his or her medical recommendations.
Also, talk to an Imam (a trusted spiritual leader) or anyone who has gone through pregnancy during the fasting month about whether fasting is right for you. Remember; always put you and your baby first!
In the early stages of pregnancy you are likely to suffer from:
- headaches and
These may become more pronounced if you aren’t eating or drinking for long periods of time. Fasting changes your routine, and not eating and drinking for long hours may cause stress.
One study found that pregnant women who fasted had higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their blood than women who didn’t. This, in addition to the natural worry you may feel as a newly pregnant woman, could put a strain on your health.
Whether or not you decide to fast, it is possible that problems such as dizziness, blurred vision and cramping could occur. If you have any of these or other symptoms that concern you, speak to your doctor immediately.
Tips to Keep You Going While Fasting
Should you decide to fast, here are some things to remember to prevent any health problems from developing during pregnancy:
Always drink lots of water
One of the most common reasons to feel ill while fasting is dehydration. If your fast is from dawn to dusk, be sure to eat well and drink a lot of fluids before sunrise.
Sahur (pre-dawn meal) is one of the most important meals to consume during Ramadan as it keeps your energy levels up during the day. It also decreases hunger pangs, headache and sleepiness. Sahur should consist of a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and will provide enough energy to last through your fasting.
Try to eat high-fibre foods and complex carbohydrates, such as grains and pulses
Your body takes longer to break down and absorb these foods, so they will fuel you better during your hours of fasting. Your healthy meal could include:
- wholewheat bread, with a little jam, cheese
- high-fibre cereal with semi-skimmed milk
- fresh and dried fruit, including bananas and dates
- unsalted nuts, granola bar
Avoid consuming coffee and tea
Coffee contains caffeine, which can make you lose more water when you urinate because it is a diuretic. Drinking tea with food can reduce the amount of iron your body is able to absorb, so stick to water when you’re eating. If you find water boring, spice it up with a slice of lemon!
Avoid over-exerting yourself with work and housework, and allow yourself to take frequent breaks. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, quickly get a drink. If your brain isn’t getting enough blood flow and oxygen (the cause of lightheadedness) the baby may not be either.
Lie down right where you are if you feel faint, and drink until you feel better. If plain water doesn’t work, you may need something with nutrition in it, like juice or food.
If you start to have uterine contractions (a balling up or tightening feeling or the sense of menstrual cramps) you must drink some fluids
Dehydration can lead to preterm contractions and potentially preterm labour. The most sensitive time in pregnancy is the last trimester. If contractions don’t stop with rest and fluids, call your doctor or midwife or go to the hospital.
Break your fast gently with water, sports drinks, or dilute juice
Carbohydrates like crackers or toast typically go down easiest and try not to eat high-fat meals. These will fill you up but give you poor nutrients and possibly indigestion. Eat a small amount first and see how you feel before filling up. There is no ideal Iftar (breakfast), but you could start with:
- three dates and juice (good for bringing your sugar levels back to normal)
- semi-skimmed milk
- clear-based soup
Then eat a well-balanced meal that may include:
- salad as a starter
- protein from chicken, meat or fish, or lentils, chickpeas or beans
- complex carbohydrates from brown rice, wholemeal pasta and wholewheat bread
- plenty of vegetables
And the most important tip of all: listen to your body! Your body can gauge how the baby is doing. If you’re feeling terrible, that isn’t good for your baby, either.
If you have any concerns about fasting during pregnancy, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.
Updates by Pheona Ilagan
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