Fasting Has No Adverse Effects on Pregnant or Breastfeeding Mothers
Dr. Halima Al Tamimi, Chairperson Gynecology & Obstetrics Department at Women's Hospital, HMC, advised that pregnant women, who are healthy and have no debilitating diseases, can safely fast during the month of Ramadan. She notes further that fasting has in some cases helped to improve a woman's psychological condition and may lead to reduced instances of pregnancy related depression. In addition, fasting permits the digestive system to rest, which is helpful since this often experiences disorders during pregnancy. Consequently the incidents of dyspepsia and acidity can be reduced during fasting, provided that the woman does not over-indulge with too much rich food at the Iftar meal.
However, Dr. Al Tamimi advises pregnant women with a history of gestational diabetes to avoid fasting, and urges pregnant women with diabetes mellitus to consult their attending doctor. Moreover, it is not advisable for pregnant women to fast during the first trimester, as it is common for them during this time to suffer from nausea which causes vomiting and dehydration which can lead to a dangerous imbalance of salts in the body. An experienced dietician should be consulted during this period to provide advice on relief of this condition.
"Studies world-wide have proved the numerous health benefits of fasting, including giving rest to the digestive system and helping to abandon the bad nutritional habits like smoking and obesity. The period of a month is long enough to enable the body discard many toxins and become more healthy," Dr. Al Tamimi said, adding that the most common problems suffered by pregnant women are obesity and the significant weight-gain may make normal vaginal delivery more difficult. This in turn leads many overweight women to undergo cesarean sections – and multiple cesarean sections can lead to other health risks for both mother and baby.
Dr. Mohamed Ilyas Khan, Qatar leading coordinator of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and the head of HMC's Lactation Management Clinic highlighted the importance of breastfeeding and its positive impact on the infant's development. Dr. Khan indicated that studies conducted by several international research centers have confirmed the vital role of breastfeeding in protecting children against diseases, providing them with adequate immunity to combat illnesses and minimizing the risk of breast cancer to the mother.
Dr. Khan lauded the unique initiative taken by Al Khor Hospital several months ago through the establishment of the Breastfeeding Resource Center, which has been described as the first of its kind in the Gulf region, and emphasized that works on setting up a full-fledged Breastfeeding Medicine Center are currently underway. The center provides counseling on breastfeeding issues from a mother's first visit to the Antenatal Clinic until the baby reaches the age of two; it also provides support to lactating mothers to help them continue to breastfeed.
Dr. Salwa Abu Yaqoub, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at HMC, said that a lactating mother whose baby has exceeded the age of 6 months can safely fast during Ramadan. However, women who are breastfeeding newborn babies should avoid fasting until their baby is young enough to take other sources of nutrition.
"Breastfeeding is a vital source of enhancing the baby's natural immunity, as the mother's milk contains antibacterial and antiviral ingredients, in addition to high levels of proteins and great amount of water," said Dr. Salwa. "Breastfeeding mothers who do fast should take their Sahour meal at a later time, drink more liquids after the Iftar meal and eat more vegetables and fruits during the evening meal rather than focusing on desserts that are high in sugar and fat but are less nutritious."