Ramadan and Pregnancy

Ramadan and Pregnancy

Sarah Azad, MD

This Ramadan will start in mid-April and the fasts will be from 14-15 hours.   Fasting during pregnancy brings up a lot of questions.

Every pregnancy is different.  Each person has different medical issues, different weight issues, and different issues with their pregnancy, so please bring up fasting during one of your appointments; ideally, 2-4 weeks before Ramadan begins.

Fasting in pregnancy is not unsafe.   When women are scheduled for cesarean sections, they are routinely advised to fast (no water, no food) for 8 hours.  But, 15–16 hour fasts, day after day, are not quite the same thing.

A lot of what you can do depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy.  The hardest time to fast is in the first 6-14 weeks of pregnancy.  This is when the stomach causes the most trouble with nausea, vomiting, etc.  Some patients have quite minimal symptoms, while others need regular medications.  If you’re in this stage of pregnancy, and you have been eating every 1-2 hours just to keep nausea at bay, fasting may not be reasonable.   Rest assured, some patients who can’t fast the first two weeks of Ramadan are able to by the time the last 10 days come around.

If you feel well and want to fast AND your physician agrees it’s safe to fast for you and your specific health conditions this pregnancy, here are the rules (not guidelines) for safe fasting in pregnancy:

  1. You must be up for sahoor (the pre-dawn meal) and must have 1 liter of water during that time.  It’s hard to drink that much that quickly, so give yourself time.   Something that also works, is to drink a glass, pray 2 rakah, drink a glass, etc.
  2. You must have another liter of water after iftar, before you sleep.
  3. If the liter after iftar AND the liter before sahoor are not done before a particular day, you should not fast that day.
  4. During the day, be aware of signs of significant dehydration.
    1. Lightheadedness or dizziness that lasts more than 30-40 seconds.   Should this occur, you should break your fast and start drinking water.
    2. Another sign of dehydration after 20-24 weeks of pregnancy is contractions.  Sometimes, when the body is dehydrated, the uterus starts to contract.  For women further along in their pregnancy, if you start to feel regular contractions or cramping, you should break your fast and start drinking water.
  5. Weigh yourself once a week, just before sunset, with either the same clothes or no clothes.  You should not be losing weight.  If you do find you are losing weight, then you should consider fasting every other day, or two out of three days so that you can keep up adequate nutrition for your growing baby.