Pregnant or Weaning During Ramadhan?
If you are a Muslim woman who is weaning, pregnant, or is planning to become pregnant, you may be wondering whether you should still fast during Ramadan. In this post our nutritionist coach Mohammad Al-Kayani has outlined some frequently asked questions and answered them from a health perspective.
Do I have to fast whilst pregnant?
Islamic law gives permission for pregnant and breastfeeding women to opt out of fasting if she fears that it will harm her health or the health of her baby. For those days that might be missed for the aforementioned reasons, one can make them up at a later date, or if this isn’t possible, a ‘fidyah’ can be paid by providing food for someone in poverty for every missed day of fasting.
However, sometimes the desire to fast during the holy month is very much strong and a pregnant women might decide to do so. Of course this would be a decision that you can make depending on your circumstances, how you are feeling and if you have experienced any problems so far in your pregnancy. We would suggest that you do consult your midwife or doctor about fasting when it comes to concern for personal and the baby’s wellbeing. As we know, this year (2019) Ramadan falls during the long summer days, so there is plenty to consider.
Is fasting during pregnancy safe for me?
You should also be aware of becoming dehydrated, especially if you are fasting over the summer months where days are longer and hotter. Monitor the colour and smell of your wee to make sure it’s not becoming dark coloured or strong smelling, as these are signs of dehydration.
If you notice that you aren’t putting on weight, develop a fever, start vomiting, or feel dizzy and weak, contact your doctor immediately.
Research has been conducted to try and answer this question, however they have been rather inconclusive, so the general opinion would be that it would not be advisable, particularly as they have found that sometimes pregnant women who fast throughout ramadan have had babies with lower birth weights, especially if they fasted in the 1st trimester.
One of the obvious risks to fasting while pregnant would dehydration, this would not only affect the mother but it can also have an effect on kidney function as well as the fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb.
Additionally, as a build upon dehydration; there is a risk of developing anaemia. Naturally, the impact of fasting will be affected by the overall health of the mother too, the stage of pregnancy the mother is at and how the mother is managing her routine if fasting.
I’ve made the decision to fast, what can I do to manage it best for me and my baby?
Pregnancy is quite a demanding time for your body in terms of nutrients and fluids it needs. If you are considering taking part in Ramadan during pregnancy, make sure you let your midwife and/or doctor know so that they can offer you some advice and perform any necessary health checks. If you do decide to fast during Ramadan, you may wish to consider fasting on some but not all days of the month, depending on how you feel throughout the days.
Avoiding dehydration: Feeling thirsty or having dark-coloured urine can be early signs of dehydration, other symptoms may include dizziness, headache, tiredness, dry mouth and passing small amounts of urine infrequently (less than three or four times a day). If you feel dizzy, faint, weak or tired during fasting, even after resting, then you should break your fast with a sweet drink, to replace lost sugar and fluids, and a salty snack, to replace lost salt. Also, as methods of prevention try to keep cool, don’t spend too much time in direct sun and try not to exert yourself too much (allow those around the opportunity to gain some extra boosted reward in the special month 😊) , and try to drink plenty of fluids once you have broken your fast and at ‘suhoor’.
You can consume fluids through:
– Drinking water
– Breaking your fast with Soup, stews
– Avoid caffeinated drinks and sugary sodas
– Have diluted drinks for that sugar needs
– Eat water via – if you are fed up at chugging down a litre of water, have high fluid foods such as celery, tomatoes, or melons – can contribute to fluid intake.
– Add Citrus – Adding lemon or lime to water can add both flavour and desire to drink more.
– Finally, try working on increasing water intake prior to Ramadan so your body doesn’t get shocked by the sudden water increase.
– And avoid salty food because it induces further thirst.
Make sure you are still taking your supplements (folic acid and vitamin D) and eating a healthy balanced diet during Ramadan so that you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need. Also try to eat foods which release energy slowly (low glycaemic index foods) such as wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread, oat and bran-based cereals, beans and unsalted nuts, especially at suhoor to maintain a good energy level throughout the day.
Weaning in Ramadan
Breastfeeding mothers are also exempted from fasting during Ramadan, and just like those going through pregnancy, travelling or those who are unwell; they will need to make up the missed fasting days of pay a ‘‘fidyah’’ as explained above.
Women who have a baby less than six months old (whom make almost 1 litre of breast milk a day) are at very severe risk of dehydration and should not fast until weaning has occurred. The same goes for women who have confirmed low milk supply, must supplement, have a child that is underweight (preemies) or ill, take medications or have health conditions that make it difficult to breastfeed. If a mother really wants to fast, she can do partial fasting—committing to two to three days a week.
If you Choose to Fast While Weaning:
In such a case, and the baby is exclusively breastfed it is recommended that the mother discuss fasting with her health professional first to avoid complications. It is also recommended the mother stays cool, well rested and hydrated and that she watch her baby for any signs he is not getting enough milk.
Warning signs for dehydration as listed by the NHS include feeling very thirsty, feeling dizzy, having headaches, fatigue, dark concentrated urine, and dry mouth, lips and eyes. Also, keep a close eye on the health of the child, based on the above make a decision to keep or break the fast.
Again to insist – if you have decided to fast during Ramadan and then begin to feel unwell, it is important to contact your midwife or doctor as soon as possible and consider breaking your fast, remember your health is also an “Amanah” – a trust- from Allah.
May Allah accept all our deeds, may he make our Ramadan a successful one and May Allah grant us the best of health.