For mothers Ramadan can be a challenging time if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is important to know whether you are healthy enough to fast and what the effects fasting might have on your body during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you are considering fasting it is important to obtain doctor advice regarding your health status. If you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding assessing the mother’s condition as well as baby’s condition is necessary if you are willing to fast.
In addition, while you are observing fasting it is important to take a balanced meal during iftar. The meals should compromise of foods with adequate calories, vitamins, minerals, iron and calcium are included in the meal. Fresh fruit juices and light meals are important to have for iftar and suhur. Foods such as deep fried food or shorts eats that are common on iftar tables should be avoided. Overeating should also be avoided as it will cause breathing difficulties.
Adequate rest is important during fasting for pregnant and breastfeeding women. If you are in the last trimester of pregnancy, additional precaution is crucial.
IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) advices that pregnant women should not fast if she has underlying complications such as Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension pre-eclampsia, anemia, bronchial asthma, cardiac problems. They also should discontinue fasting immediately and drink water if there are signs of dehydration.
If you experience the following symptoms it is important to visit a health facility at the earliest
· - Extreme thirst
· - Excessively dry mouth, skin, and mucous membranes
· - Headache or fever
· - Irritability and confusion
· - Extreme fatigue, dizziness, fainting, or weakness
· - Nausea or vomiting
· - Urinating less frequently or very dark-colored or strong- odor urine
· - Not gaining enough weight or losing weight
· - Decreased fetal movements
· - Painless uterine contractions (premature labor)
Fasting while breastfeeding
IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) advices that mothers feeding less than 6 months old babies should not fast during Ramadan. If the baby is on complementary feeding, mothers can continue fasting as breastmilk production will not be affected due to fasting
Mothers who are fasting must drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated during night and rest during the day.
Breastfeeding women should see a doctor before starting to fast to educate themselves about the effects of breastfeeding on their child's development. Reduced fat, vitamins, and minerals are some of the consequences of breastmilk composition (Zinc, Magnesium and Potassium).
The stress of the fast may cause the milk ejection reflex to slow down. However, the majority of the time, it is dependent on the individual body's ability to store nutrients and energy. During fasting hours, if there is adequate nutritional storage, the baby will continue to receive the level of micronutrients required for the development.
If there are signs of dehydration, mothers should stop fasting (thirsty, dizzy, weak, tired, fainting, severe headache, dark-colored strong smelling urine). Drink water, fruit juice, or an oral rehydration solution. Once you've broken your fast, you may relax. Observe them for about 30 minutes; if she is still unwell after that time, she should go to a medical facility.
Mothers should stop fasting immediately upon observing any of the following symptoms from their baby.
· Not gaining enough weight or has lost weight
· Not satisfied after the feeding possibly crying for another feed soon after
· Fewer wet and dirty nappies
· Seems generally unsettled, fussy, cries constantly (no tears)
· Green-colored scanty stool
· Sunken anterior fontanelle
· Cold, blotchy hands and feet