by Sinit Aatifa
Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.
Ramadan can occur in any of the four seasons. When it occurs in the summer, fasting in the thermometer-busting temperatures can be difficult for pregnant and nursing women.
Special provisions set by religious leaders say that a pregnant woman can opt out of the fasting requirement for the holiday. They can make up days later or may make a donation to charity in lieu of fasting.
Even though opting out is allowed, many women say that they would rather fast when everyone else is fasting. Others feel their baby's heath might be affected and accept the exception.
If you're pregnant, you might be wondering if you should fast this Ramadan. This information can aid as you make that decision and help you stay healthy if you decide to undertake the days of fasting.
Celebrating Ramadan While Pregnant
Women not fasting can join in other areas of worship such as offering additional prayers, inviting friends and family for evening meals, reading the Qur'an, or donating to charity.
For those who have decided to join the fasting, these tips can help you and baby stay healthy.
Fasting Tips for Pregnant Women
Shannon Staloch, a licensed midwife in Oakland, California shares these tips for fasting during pregnancy. She bases her recommendations on "Real Food for Mothers and Babies" by Nina Planck.
First trimester: Your baby's organs of your develop and your embryo needs minerals, as well as protein and healthy fats to become a strong fetus.
• Smoothies with egg yolks, coconut oil, milk, yogurt and lots of fresh fruit provide plenty of the micro-nutrients, oils, good fats and proteins.
• An omelet with lots of vegetables for a mix of micro-nutrients and protein.
• Oatmeal with lots of butter, cream, milk, or coconut milk with nuts and fruits make a complete suhoor.
• Try to eat at least three times a day in Ramadan, the suhoor meal, an iftar meal, and again about an hour before going to bed.
Second trimester: Bones and muscles grow this trimester, so your baby needs calcium and protein rich foods.
• Try to switch your nights and days. During the day, stay inactive and rest. Save activities until shortly before the sun sets so that you can eat and drink soon after.
• Do gentle exercises like yoga, tai chi, or walking shortly before the sun sets.
• Don't skimp on sleep, even during the summer months.
• Include protein rich foods in your meals, such as meats, broths, eggs, and lentils.
• Eat calcium rich snacks between iftar and bedtime, such as almonds or warmed milk with cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of sugar, yogurt with fruit.
• Break your fast with dates. They're high in potassium, iron, anti-oxidants, and other minerals -- a perfect second trimester treat.
Third trimester: The eyes, brain, and nervous system develop rapidly.
• Try breaking your fast with fish. It's easy to prepare and full of healthy fats for growing brains.
• Drink herbal infusions, like alfalfa, red raspberry leaf, nettles, and oat straw; they contain minerals and micro-nutrients that help your muscles work efficiently in labor.
• Egg yolks, butter, whole fat milk, and all other foods rich in cholesterol build brains so go ahead and have eggs and toast with lots of butter for suhoor.
Some research findings demonstrate negative effects of fasting on the mother or her unborn baby, especially during long summer months and during early pregnancy. Other studies suggest that fasting has no effect on the unborn baby.
Experts suggest that you talk with your doctor or midwife about whether or not you should fast in Ramadan.
Moms Share Their Choices
"I wouldn't fast every day, I would do one day of fasting followed by a day of rest. Doing alternate days helped me keep my energy levels up," Aanisa says.
Umhuda shares, "you can fast or not fast if you are pregnant. I used to fast one day on one day off so I would not have the entire month to make up. Bottom line, do what is required for your health and the health of the baby."
"What the women in my husband's country do when they are pregnant during Ramadan is go to a doctor and if the doctor says they are ok to fast then they fast," Tasneem says.
"I am due in Ramadhan this year. I plan to try fasting up until my due day. From what I've heard, it's easier and better on the baby to fast late in the pregnancy versus early in the pregnancy," Alhamdul shares.
Will you fast for Ramadan? Do you have any advice for moms-to-be who do? We look forward to hearing your comments and wish you and your families a good fast!