To avoid complications, pregnant and breastfeeding women who are fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan are advised to watch for ‘unusual’ symptoms, especially if they have not sought any medical advice prior to starting their fast.
Fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for all healthy adult Muslims. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women are exempted and can opt to fast at a more suitable time.
Dr Salwa Abuyaqoub, Senior Consultant for Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Women’s Wellness and Research Centre (WWRC), urges pregnant and breastfeeding women to consult with their physician and undergo a general health check before fasting. She highlighted the importance of keeping the lines of communication open, especially if a woman or her baby are experiencing unusual symptoms.
While many pregnant women can safely fast during Ramadan, this is not medically advisable for women with complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure. If a woman is classified as having a high-risk pregnancy, fasting could potentially cause harm to her or her unborn child.’
Women who were deemed fit to fast while pregnant should rest frequently throughout the day and ensure they receive the correct nutrients and calories when breaking their fast each evening. She said that women should also ensure that they consume up to three litres of water between Suhoor and Iftar, and avoid sweets and other sugary snacks after Iftar.
Dr Amal Abu Bakr Arbab, Lactation Consultant and Lead for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative at WWRC also agrees that it’s important for breastfeeding women to consult with their physician before fasting. She said that women should not hesitate to talk to their healthcare team throughout the month, especially if they start to feel unwell.
Dr Arbab explained that fasting may cause fatigue and dehydration (especially during hot weather and long fasting days) which will impact a woman’s ability to breastfeed effectively. To maintain a continuous flow of milk, she advised that women keep cool, eat healthy food, drink enough fluids, get at least two hours of rest prior to feeding their baby and ensure that they get an average of eight hours of sleep each night.
Dr Mohammed Ilyas Khan, Specialist and Lactation Consultant at the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department of Al Khor Hospital, reinforced Dr Arbab’s advice. He said that if a breastfeeding mother is fasting and discovers that she is losing weight quickly, and has any of these symptoms – headache, feels excessively thirsty or dizzy and/or notices her urine is very dark, she should stop fasting immediately.
He said that the weight and growth rate of any breastfed baby of a fasting mother will most likely remain unchanged during Ramadan. However, he said that it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of ill health. Signs that the baby’s nutrition may be inadequate include constant crying, fewer wet nappies, greenish stools, and weight loss. If these signs are noticeable in your baby, he said that the child should see a paediatrician immediately.
For more information about fasting this Ramadan, visit hamad.qa.