Do pregnant women who are fasting during the Holy Islamic month of Ramadan have a greater chance of experiencing a pre-term birth? A new study by Lebanese researchers rules out the half-day fast as cause for an earlier than expected birth. With Ramadan continuing until Friday, pregnant Muslim everywhere want to know if it’s safe to fast. Of course it’s always wise to consult your doctor and heed their advice, but for those who might be worried about the health effects on pre-term birth should pick up one point worth considering: the researchers ruled out that women who were fasting during their pregnancy have a greater chance of giving birth to smaller babies. And this effect was something they called “alarming.”
The Holy month of Ramadan falls during the ninth lunar month in the Islamic calendar. During this month Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
The fast is compulsory in Islam, and in some countries against the law if you do not fast; this new study may shed some new cautionary tales on how fasting, pregnant women should be treated in their communities and homes. The researchers, headed by Dr Anwar Nassar write that fasting when pregnant may be “a relative exemption if reasons for maternal/foetal hardship are suspected.”
A professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, many women approach him asking if it’s okay to fast.
Previously other studies just focused on pre-term birth, and not the size of the baby when born. Recruiting women from medical centers, the researchers followed the 402 women during their third trimester over the month of Ramadan.
Some 21 women in each group gave birth before their 37th week, a time period considered pre-term. Those babies born from fasting moms were smaller, on average – at about 3 kilograms versus 3.2.
A causal effect could be the reduced weight gain in fasting mothers. Heart disease and other health effects later in life might be linked to lower birth rates. The researchers add that there could be other consequences.
Depending on the time of the year and where the woman is living fasting can last from 10 to 19 hours.
It is worth consulting your gynecologist if you are planning any sort of fast while pregnant, for health or spiritual reasons.
Image of newborn baby from Shutterstock