The holy month of Ramadan involves fasting everyday for one month from sunrise to sunset. However, as a pregnant woman or a breastfeeding mother, it can be difficult to fast as the baby’s health is also a matter of concern. It is recommended that a pregnant or lactating woman who wishes to fast during Ramadan talk to their physician and get a complete general health check up done.
From the religious point of view, pregnant women, children, and those who are ill are exempted from fasting during Ramadan, therefore it is advised that pregnant or breastfeeding women do not observe fasting during the holy month. Also, pregnant women with complications like high blood pressure, diabetes, or anemia are advised against fasting in order to protect themselves and their baby from unwanted complications that may arise. Other implications of fasting, on healthy, pregnant women can include dizziness, nausea, low birth weight, and slow metabolism.
Ideally, fasting is to be avoided when pregnant but if you do wish to fast during Ramadan, you should be seeking continuous advice from the doctors throughout. This is to make sure that the fasting is not affecting the baby in any serious way. During the fasts, they must take frequent rests, make sure that their nutrient intake is sufficient when they break the fast, and consume up to three liters of water. They are also advised against consuming sugary food items and sweets while breaking their fast.
Pregnant women who are fasting should contact their doctor as soon as possible if any of the below mentioned conditions holds true:
- They are losing weight or not putting on enough weight.
- They are urinating less frequently and the urine is strong-smelling and dark-coloured. This can make them vulnerable to urinary tract infections and is a sign of dehydration.
- They develop pains in body, headache or a fever.
- They feel less thirsty.
- They start vomiting and feeling nauseous.
- They feel weak, faint, dizzy, tired, and confused even after a good rest.
- There is change in the baby’s movements that is noticeable, like the baby is not kicking or moving around.
- They experience contraction-like pains, which could be a sign of premature labor.
Pregnant women should immediately break their fast if any of the above symptoms or conditions start to show, and contact their doctor.
Mothers of babies in the age of 0 to 6 months who breastfeed their baby exclusively may not be able to fast. Fasting usually causes dehydration and fatigue impacting the ability of a mother to breastfeed. Breastfeeding mothers need to ensure that they are maintaining a balanced intake of up to 500 extra calories in addition to the recommended 2000 calories for women. If a fasting mother notices any of the signs of dehydration, she must break her fast immediately by taking oral rehydration solution or sweet fruit juice and rest. She should be consulting her doctor if she still feels unwell after about half an hour.
Although fasting does not affect the quantity or quality of milk, a mother should stop fasting immediately if she is worried about the baby not getting enough milk. Some of the signs for these could be continuous crying of the baby, green-colored stools passed by baby, fewer wet diapers, or weight loss.
So whether pregnant or nursing, it is better to refrain from fasting during the holy month. Always consult your doctor before making these decisions.