Many women choose to fast in pregnancy due to their personal beliefs or religious commitments.
Festivals in which it is common to fast such as Karva Chauth, Teej or Shivratri are bound to come up at least once in the course of your nine months of pregnancy.
If you want to fast, especially for long spells such as Navratras, Ramadan or Lent, it’s important to take extra care of yourself. Read on to find out how to make your fasting experience a good one.
Is it safe to fast in pregnancy?
There’s no clear answer. Despite research, we can’t be sure that fasting is safe for you and your baby. However, fasting in pregnancy appears to be safer for you and your baby if you feel strong and well enough, and if your pregnancy is going well.
If you don’t feel well enough to fast, or are worried about your health or your baby’s wellbeing, speak to your doctor before deciding to fast. She will most likely review your physical health and medical history. She’ll probably check for other complications, such as gestational diabetes, anaemia or multiple pregnancies before giving you the go-ahead.
One factor is when the fast takes place. For example, if Ramzan coincides with summer, this means hot weather and long days, which puts you at greater risk of dehydration.
Also, fasting for long periods may cause:
- dizzy spells
- severe acidity
If you have any of these symptoms talk to your doctor right away.
What are the things I should keep in mind if I’m fasting?
Some religions do not permit any food or even water during the fast. Speak to your doctor and priest how best you can handle this.
Some religions allow specific ‘fasting foods’ such as non-cereals foods, fruits, vegetables, milk and juices. Choosing a ‘fresh fruit and vegetable fast’ is a healthier option. This will help to ensure you don’t miss essential nutrients such as iron. Try not to have high sugar foods and caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea during your fast.
If the weather is hot and humid, stay indoors during the peak heat hours.
If fluids are allowed ensure you keep sipping water, milk or fresh fruit juices at regular intervals.
Try to rest for some time during the day. It is best to not do any strenuous work and exercise while you’re fasting.
Fasting slows down your digestive system, so remember to break your fast slowly. Drink a small glass of juice or coconut water first and then follow it up with a light meal.
If you suffer from extreme exhaustion, fatigue, palpitations, abdominal cramps or severe nausea and acidity speak to your doctor right away.
I feel bad about missing my fast, are there any other options that I could consider?
For many women fasting is an integral part of their lives, especially if it is a custom or a religious belief. So it’s understandable that you are upset at the thought of giving up something you value deeply.
Consider the following:
- Instead of a daily fast, can you fast on the first and last day of the fasting period?
- Is it possible to fast weekly or on alternate days instead of a daily fast?
- Could you choose a fruit fast instead of giving up all food and drink?
- Are there any exemptions or allowances for pregnant women, such as breaking the fast early or making up by fasting later?
- Is it possible to share the fast with another family member? Some husbands offer to keep the fast for half a day while their wives fast for the other half.
- Could you substitute the fast with other forms of sacrifice such as abstaining from certain foods like non-vegetarian fare, sweets, certain cereals or salt?
- Could you keep a different kind of fast such as a fast of silence?
Some choose to donate money they would normally splurge on themselves as an offering. Some women choose to offer penance by giving up things they enjoy most such as watching movies or shopping.