It is possible to observe Ramadan safely depending on the mother’s health. If there are risks of complications during pregnancy, anemia or gestational diabetes, it is not advisable to fast.
For the mother
Studies have not shown any harmful effects for healthy pregnant women. However, she exposes herself to the following risks if her diet is insufficient during fasting:
- Hypoglycemia (abnormally low level of blood sugar)
- Production of ketones (product formed in case of low energy intake in the blood)
- Dehydration (lack of water or other fluids in the body).
It is recommended for all pregnant women wishing to observe Ramadan to consult a doctor before starting the fast. A doctor can best advise on the woman’s condition and say whether it is appropriate to go ahead with the fast. In cases where the mother is particularly at risk or already experiencing medical complications such as gestational diabetes or anemia, it is highly recommended not to fast. Fasting in a mother with gestational diabetes can cause severe hypoglycaemia, which can cause dizziness and low blood sugar in the baby. This is why it is even forbidden in the Qur’an to participate in fasting in cases of maternal medical complications. Although studies have not shown any significant effects, fasting also increases the risk of obstetric complications such as the induction of labor (starting work earlier than expected), caesarean delivery, or gestational diabetes. These complications can endanger the mother or the newborn baby if they are not quickly managed.
In cases where fasting is not recommended during pregnancy, it is possible to replace the missed days later during the year. Some women decide to alternate a day of fasting with a day of non-fasting. For those unable to replace their missed days, they can observe fidyah, which consists of providing two meals a day to a person in need for 30 days.
For the baby
As for pregnant women, the consequences of fasting on the baby’s health are clearly demonstrated. The studies assessed the risks on intrauterine growth and some functions of the baby evaluated at birth (cardiac and respiratory function, reactivity, skin tone and skin coloring). It would seem that if the mother is healthy and provides quality food choices during the non-fasting periods, the observation of Ramadan would have no adverse effects. However, if the mother decides to fast during the first trimester, the baby is more at risk of a low birth weight.
It is important that in all cases, the baby’s health remain a priority. If Ramadan fasting can harm the child, it is essential to cease it.