Pregnancy is one of the conditions in which Allah and religion allows the pregnant mother to skip fasting during Ramazan. It is said in the Quran, “So when you see the new moon you should fast the whole month; but a person who is ill or traveling (and fails to do so) should fast on other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (Al Baqara, 185). All the religious scholars agree that this ease is also for pregnant women who have complicated pregnancies or in case fasting puts the life of mother or baby in danger.
According to Dr Rahat Lateef, a gynecologist at Lateef Trust Hospital, Gujranwala, it is safe for a pregnant woman to fast if her pregnancy is “event free”. This means a mother-to-be who is healthy, has no medical condition and healthy eating habits and lifestyle can go well with fasting. “Nevertheless, she should take care of herself by observing a single fast and keeping track of her condition and baby movements. At the end of the day if she feels fine, she can carry on.” Dr Rahat however, does not forget to add that pregnant women with gestational diabetes, anemia, kidney infections, and heart problems are not recommended to fast.
She further explains that special care should be taken in initial stages of pregnancy that is in the first trimester and even the last trimester as baby movements can be effected by dehydration and nutritional deficiency which can then cause problems during labor. “Second trimester is safer for fasting.”
In recent years, Ramazan comes during the hot summer months. The scorching heat and long hours make it difficult to fast even for normal people. The threat of dehydration and heat stroke is always there as sun is hottest in months of June and July. It becomes all the more difficult for pregnant women to go without water for fourteen to sixteen hours as the baby needs a continuous supply of fluids and nutrients.
Foods to eat
If a pregnant woman insists on fasting, she should make proper meal plans by consulting her gynecologist. According to Dr Rahat, expectant mothers usually need 2250 calories a day. Therefore, “she should choose foods that release calories slowly to fulfill her all day calorie requirement.” Whole grains, beans, pulses, vegetables and dry fruits must be included at suhur (pre-dawn meal).
Take plenty of proteins, vitamins, and minerals especially iron and calcium rich diet in suhur. “Birth defects and premature labor can occur if the unborn baby does not get its daily required amount of iron,” explains Dr Rahat. Include meat, pulses, nuts and fruits in your diet. “Yogurt should be a must at suhur time because it prevents dehydration as well as provides the required daily amount of calcium and vitamin D to the baby.”
Fluid intake is also highly important. One of course, cannot drink the entire required amount at one time. So try to drink at least two liters after iftar till suhur time. “Plain water, fruit juices and lemon water are best sources to stay hydrated throughout the day,” she adds.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid fried foods as they can cause acidity even to normal stomach and a pregnant woman’s stomach is a lot more sensitive and prone to acidity because of the hormonal changes. “Also avoid high sugar foods like bakery and sweet dishes for they give an instant rise and then an instant fall to blood sugar level.” This instant rise and fall can cause dizziness and even fainting. Keep away from processed and refined foods; they are always bad for you and your baby.
“Refrain from coffee and tea, as these drinks are diuretics and can lead you towards dehydration,” says Dr Rahat. Always opt for a healthy iftar. Include dates both in your suhur and iftar. They are energy filled multi vitamin and mineral capsules that can help you stay energized throughout the long summer days.
Important Things to Do
A fasting pregnant woman should be well aware of her fitness and medical condition. Keep a track of your baby movements. Immediately consult your gynecologist if you feel nausea, dizziness, palpitation, cramps, over exhausted or contraction like pains.
Moreover, try to keep yourself cool and do not walk or work for prolonged periods. If possible, try to stay indoors and cut down on household chores which exhaust you. Give yourself regular breaks throughout the day. Claim and accept family support while doing household chores.
There is no compulsion for pregnant women. She can make up for the missing fast days after pregnancy. She can also compensate by charity for/on food items to a needy person. So that he can observe fast by having good diet. Islam allows this for each missing day. Therefore, do not burden yourself and endanger your baby’s and your life.