Ramadan and The Pregnant Muslimah
Fasting is mandatory on all Muslims who have attained puberty as revealed in the following surah:
“Oh you who believe! Observing As Shaum ( the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Al- Baqarah:183)
However some groups of people are given exemption as the following verse showed:
“Fasting for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number ( should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g old man), they have a (choice either to fast or) to feed a poor person for (every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast is better for you if only you know.” (Al Baqarah:184)
The few groups given exemption are those who are ill, or on a journey. For these groups of people the verse clearly says that they are exempt from fasting but should replace the number of days missed in other months. Do pregnant or breastfeeding mothers qualify for this exemption? They certainly are not ill.
What about a pregnant mother then?
Most if not all pregnant mothers will experience some symptoms from pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Most commonly nausea, vomiting and lethargy. To counter this, these mums are encouraged to take small frequent meals. In severe cases, such as hyperemesis gravidarum, antiemetics like maxolon or stemetil are prescribed, but these provide only symptomatic relief and are not a cure. Therefore, encouraging the patient to have frequent sips of water is important to avoid dehydration and the need for parenteral iv infusion. Clearly this group of pregnant Muslimahs falls under the ‘ fasting with difficulty’ category and according to Islam don’t need to fast.
The 2nd and 3rd trimester are often emotionally as well as physically less challenging providing that the fetus is growing well and the mother herself doesn’t have any medical problems so there is a choice to fast or not to fast.
The ulamas are in agreement that nursing and pregnant mothers are given this very special exemption. They are also in agreement that if the mother worries about the health of her baby, or if there’s any reason at all for the doctor attending her to suspect possible harm to the baby, then the woman should not fast. Therefore, any woman with diabetes, who is taking treatments, or who has hypertension or IUGR etc. there is no need to fast.
But does fasting have any effects at all on the fetus?
A few groups of doctors had looked at women fasting in Ramadhan for measuring the fetal parameters (BPD, FL, EFW) and fetal well being (BPP, AFI, Doppler). They found no maternal ketonemia or ketonuria and no significant adverse effects on intrauterine fetal development or fetal health. (J Obstet Gynaecol Res.2008 Aug:34(4): 494-8). Others who did similar studies also found NO significant effects on fetal health.
I was fortunate both times upon finding out that I was I was pregnant on the last day or middle of Ramadan, and since all was well I received support from my obgyn to continue my fast. Alhamdullilah.
Islam is a religion that doesn’t burden its Ummah. If you are pregnant, consult your obstetrician to discuss the state of your pregnancy and options. Know that Allah is Most Merciful and understanding.
Should you choose to fast, remember to eat healthy and to rehydrate well during permissible times.