Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Fasting During Ramadan: A Guide for Moms

Author -

Kimberly Jolasun

Fasting at Ramadan: A guide for pregnant and breastfeeding moms

As a mother and the creator of Villie, I find joy in helping all mothers build their communities, especially blended communities. My husband's family is Muslim, and I have come to love and respect their customs and traditions, despite not being Muslim myself. However, when I was pregnant for the first time and spending time with family during Ramadan, I couldn't help but wonder how other pregnant or postpartum women observe this sacred time. Do pregnant women fast during Ramadan? Are breast-feeding mothers permitted to skip the Ramadan fast? I decided to do some research to get these questions answered and share my findings. 

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, and reflection. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, water, smoking, and sexual activity. The fast is broken at sunset with a meal called Iftar, which is often shared with family and friends. Ramadan is considered a time for self-discipline, spiritual reflection, and an opportunity to grow closer to God. It is also a time for increased charity and generosity towards others, as well as a time to strengthen community ties. Ramadan ends with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which is a three-day festival of feasting and family gatherings.

‍Should I fast during Ramadan if I'm pregnant?‍

During the holy month of Ramadan, pregnant and breastfeeding women are exempt from fasting. But what I came to understand is, this rule can be difficult for some women to practice if they are already used to fasting every year. But like most things, when it comes to pregnancy, it is crucial to prioritize the health and safety of both the mother and baby.

Pregnant women with complications such as gestational diabetes should avoid fasting as it can be challenging to maintain blood sugar levels. Instead, they can make up for missed fasts by fasting at a later date or by performing fidyah, which is a charitable donation. Additionally, there are still plenty of ways to participate in Ramadan, such as focusing on spiritual growth.

How to observe Ramadan without fasting

Here are a few ways pregnant and breast-feeding women can observe Ramadan without fasting:

Focus on prayer and reflection

Use the time that would be spent fasting to engage in additional prayers, meditation, or reflection. This could include reading the Quran, performing extra voluntary prayers (Salah), or setting aside quiet time for introspection.

Prioritize spiritual growth

Ramadan is a time for spiritual growth and self-improvement. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use this time to deepen their knowledge of their faith, work on personal development, or strengthen their relationship with God.

Engage in acts of charity

One of the central aspects of Ramadan is giving back to the community and helping those in need. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can participate in charitable acts, such as donating to food banks, volunteering at a local shelter, or providing support to friends and family.

Connect with the community

Building and strengthening community ties is an essential part of Ramadan. Attend community events, join online gatherings, or engage in meaningful conversations with fellow community members to foster connections during this sacred month.

Make up missed fasts later or perform Fidyah

As mentioned earlier, pregnant and breastfeeding women who are unable to fast during Ramadan can make up for missed fasts at a later time when they are able or provide a charitable donation (fidyah) for each missed day of fasting.

Practice gratitude and mindfulness

Cultivate a sense of gratitude and mindfulness by focusing on the blessings in your life and expressing appreciation for your health, family, and community. This practice can help deepen your spiritual connection during Ramadan.

Encourage and support others

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can provide support and encouragement to friends and family who are fasting during Ramadan, by helping prepare meals, engaging in spiritual discussions, or simply lend a listening ear to those who may be struggling.

If a pregnant woman chooses to fast, it is essential that she consults with her midwife or doctor first. They will consider factors such as the woman's pregnancy history, weight, lifestyle, and any complications that may arise. It is also recommended to take breaks from fasting every few days and to eat a balanced diet during suhoor and iftar. It is also important to avoid caffeine, difficult-to-digest foods, sugary foods and drinks, and any unsafe foods during pregnancy. 

How to fast safely during Ramadan if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

If they do choose to fast, here are a few tips from my research, for how pregnant and breastfeeding women can observe Ramadan safely while fasting.  

Break your fast with nutrient-rich foods

When breaking your fast, choose nutrient-rich foods that will provide you with the energy you need to sustain your health and your baby's development. For Iftar, start with dates and water to replenish energy and hydration, followed by a balanced meal that includes protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Don't skip suhoor

Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal that provides nourishment and energy for the day. Skipping this meal can lead to fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness. Ensure you eat a balanced, nutrient-dense suhoor that includes slow-digesting foods like whole grains, protein, and healthy fats to help maintain energy levels throughout the day.

Manage blood sugar levels

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are more susceptible to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can be exacerbated during fasting. Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels, and if you notice any signs of low blood sugar, such as dizziness, weakness, or confusion, break your fast and consult your healthcare provider.

Consider shorter fasting periods

In consultation with your healthcare provider and religious leaders, you may consider shorter fasting periods or intermittent fasting, which involves fasting for a few hours during the day instead of the entire daylight period. This approach may help maintain your energy levels and reduce the risk of dehydration or other complications.

Prioritize mental health

Pregnancy and the postpartum period can be emotionally challenging, and fasting during Ramadan may add to these challenges. Pay attention to your mental well-being, and seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals as often as you need. 

Alternative acts of worship

During pregnancy or breastfeeding, there may be more limited energy levels for traditional acts of worship. Activities such as reading the Quran, listening to religious podcasts, or engaging in Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) throughout the day are encouraged.

Participate in a way that makes sense to you!

While there is limited research on the effects of fasting during pregnancy, some studies suggest that fasting during Ramadan does not negatively impact birth weight or other pregnancy outcomes for low-risk pregnancies. However, it's essential to consult with your healthcare provider before deciding to fast during pregnancy or breastfeeding. (Source: Mirghani, H. M., & Hamud, O. A. (2006). The effect of maternal diet restriction on pregnancy outcome. American Journal of Perinatology, 23(1), 21-24.).

As a non-Muslim mother, I have come to appreciate the significance of Ramadan and the challenges that pregnant and breastfeeding women may face during this holy month. There are many ways for pregnant and breastfeeding women to participate in Ramadan that still allow them to stay true to their faith. I hope that this information will be helpful to others who have close friends or family members expecting during this sacred holiday.

Latest posts

Read more