Tips to help pregnant mothers enjoy a safe and healthy Ramadan this year

Ramadan is one of the most important months for the Muslim community. This sacred period is marked by fasting – one of the five principle pillars of Islam.  Millions of Muslims across the world abstain from food and water, from dawn to dusk, during the entire month. Pregnant women are generally exempt from fasting under Islamic law. However, a significant number of women choose to fast during the earlier months of their pregnancy.  While fasting is a personal decision, doctors and clerics strongly recommend that expecting women seek medical advice and approval before they undertake fasting.

Dehydration, constipation, headaches, hypoglycemia and nausea are some of the common side effects seen in pregnant women who fast during Ramadan, says Dr. Fady Georges Hachem,Consultant – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Burjeel Hospital. He offers some key guidelines to keep these and other problems at bay especially since Ramadan is during summer this year, and rising temperatures could exacerbate the effects of fasting in some women. He also advises regular checks with an obstetrician, doctor and dietician to keep a check on blood sugar levels, weight and other factors during the month. He recommends fasting for couple of days and then monitoring how you feel before deciding on fasting for the entire period.

Dr Hachem insists on keeping well hydrated during non-fasting hours. Avoid having coffee, tea and cola, which are high in caffeine, a diuretic that will cause the body to lose water. Instead, drink a lot of water. Add a slice of lime or lemon to it to add freshness and a boost of energising vitamin C. Fruit juice is also a sensible option, as it will provide some of the vitamins lost during the day. A smoothie or milkshake made with milk, yoghurt, ice and fruit is an excellent choice as well.

It’s important to discuss an eating plan with a dietitian before Ramadan, as nutrition is a key concern for the health of both mother and child.  Don’t limit eating to Iftar (evening meal) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal). It’s better to have several small, nutritious meals after breaking the fast until fasting begins the next day. Eat sensible portions, with an emphasis on low glycemic index foods, whole grains, lean sources of meat, fish and poultry, small amounts healthy fats and low- sugar foods.

Get enough rest. Take things easy and accept any help whenever offered. Plan the day well and schedule chores at an easy pace. Sit back and relax regularly, and avoid stressful situations as much as possible. Don’t step out when it’s very sunny, or hot to avoid headaches, heatstroke or dehydration. Get permission to reduce the workload at the office, if possible.

It is crucial that pregnant women avoid taking unnecessary risks during Ramadan. Symptoms such as nausea, dehydration and weight loss should not be ignored at any cost. Also, pay particular attention to the foetus’ movements. If there’s any difference, no matter how slight, inform the obstetrician or doctor immediately. Experiencing sudden cramps or contraction-like pains could also indicate premature labour. In such a situation, seek medical help at once.

The important thing to remember is not to be pressurised to fast. The process can be a lot easier if all the recommendations are followed stringently, as it ensures the health and safety of both the mother and child.

**Please note, Thumbay Group, Gulf Medical University, and HEALTH magazine are not liable nor responsible for the facts, figures, and overall content of the press releases on our portal.

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