Saturday, September 12, 2009

Should pregnant women fast in Ramadan?

The holy month of Ramadan may bring new challenges for pregnant women as they encounter a period of acute difficulty. According to the Islamic perspective, there is no obligation on pregnant women to fast in Ramadan. They can opt not to and make up the days missed later. However, if a woman is able and willing to fast - providing there is no harm to her unborn child - then she can do so.

From a purely medical perspective, doctors and health specialists believe that fasting offers physical benefits as it keeps body in a perfect state while helping to burn out unnecessary fats and additional calories.

Therefore, if a woman is healthy and there are no such complications, she can adhere to her daily routine of fasting.

In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Dr. Sumaiya Banu, a consultant gynecologist at Badr-As-Samah Clinic in Jeddah mirrored this opinion. “Fasting does not cause any problems to a child who is in the development stage of its growth and is not affected by the fast,” she said. “It all depends on how much the pregnant woman can endure; some can even fast the whole month.”

She added that those women who do plan on fasting, however, should consult their doctor before embarking as the doctor will review her general and obstetric health before approving.

“It is imperative that you consult your doctor as the doctor will monitor the growth of the baby, your weight, and only then give the green signal for fasting, considering there aren’t any complications,” she explained.

Another issue she highlighted was women in their first trimester (first three month of pregnancy) might find fasting much harder, as they will be dealing with morning sickness: nausea and excessive vomiting.

“Such women can fast on alternate days - if they are not suffering from any complications - or whenever they feel up to it. In this way, they will feel healthier and more refreshed,” she remarked.

The issue of fasting also needs to consider the pregnant woman’s built. Dr. Banu advised those women who have a slender built to not fast, as well as those who have high blood pressures, low levels of hemoglobin and suffer from epilepsy. The list also includes those who require regular medication, like insulin and vitamin injections. Pregnant women must also be aware of the risks of dehydration, which can lead to urinary tract infections, so they need to drink enough water. Dr. Banu advises the consumption of at least 2.5 liters of water to detoxify the digestive system and organs. Oily and spicy food must be avoided, like in normal days, as well as gram flour delicacies that are a regular feature at Iftars in Asian homes.

In those cases where there is a risk or possibility of premature labor, twin babies and severe morning sickness, fasting should be avoided altogether. However, any fasting woman who experiences symptoms like dizziness, blurred vision, palpitations, burning in the urinary tract or sever vomiting, should break her fast immediately and consult her doctor, advised Dr. Banu. - SG

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