As Muslims, many of us know there is an exemption that we can take when pregnant and the scholars will generally share that a woman may choose not to fast or break her fast if there is fear of harm for baby or herself.
Fear of harm feels like a subjective term, and Allah knows best but perhaps that is intentional. Perhaps it is helpful for a woman to be able to personally assess if fasting is harmful or too difficult for her. With that said, we can also look at this objectively to help make a decision, particularly the decision to fast which is where safety concerns are more prevalent.
So, today, we tackle a common Ramadan question – “Is it safe to fast while Pregnant?”
Alhamdulilah we are entering an era of medical research on Ramadan and this allows us to make better informed decisions.
When it comes to pregnancy and Ramadan, there are multiple studies that show us that many women fast some or all of the month while pregnant with or without consulting their healthcare team (PMID: 30559779, PMID: 24962444, PMID: 6643131).
In terms of safety, studies are varied. There are a few studies that show no negative effects of fasting while pregnant (PMID: 30359228, PMID: 31822318, PMID: 15628676). Another study showed that if women were malnourished then Ramadan fasting led to low birth weight for infants (PMID: 15628676) but if already well nourished, it was not a concern. We also have a large study in Quebec that did show increased preterm births (negative effect) in Arabic speaking women if their pregnancy coincided with Ramadan, especially 2-3 trimester (PMID: 31198942).
All of these studies have shortcomings and none of them meet the gold standard for research studies but they are a place to start the conversation.
If fasting during pregnancy there are some recommended considerations to be aware of (PMID: 29808065):
- 1st Trimester: If unable to maintain hydration/caloric intake in evenings due to nausea/vomiting then a woman may need to break her fast.
- 2nd/3rd Trimester: Blood pressure changes naturally occur in pregnancy and can be aggravated by fasting. Weekly monitoring recommended to monitor for signs of fetal compromise.
It’s important to also remember that fasting Ramadan is not an all or nothing act. A good conversation to have with your physician would be on whether you could fast some days and break some if fasting the entire month is deemed unsafe.
Have you fasted while pregnant?
Dua Aldasouqi, MA, RDN
PS. You can NOT make a decision to fast or not fast based on this information but it can allow you to have an informed conversation. This post is not intended to replace speaking to your own physician or imam/scholar, it is for informational purposes only.
PPS. If you are a dietitian or healthcare professional looking to learn more about Ramadan and it’s implication for our patients and clients, I have the webinar for you: Ramadan for Dietitians – Research & Recommendations. The replay is available, just register.