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Handling Pregnancy and Fasting

Getting ready for Ramadan is a lot like being pregnant. That’s something you don’t hear very often, is it? Let me explain my theory. Ramadan is also called the Month of Mercy. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In the rich Arabic language, the womb in which a baby grows for nine months is called the “rahm”; and that, my friends, is the root of the word, “mercy”. Pretty cool, huh? 

Some of us Muslimahs will be pregnant this Ramadan. How will you handle it?

We must first begin with the words of Almighty Allah. Take great notice that our Lord, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, does not specifically mention that pregnant or nursing women must fast or are forbidden to fast. He simply makes the allowance that “whosoever is sick or on a journey, [should fast] on other days.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 185]

Thus, Allah has left it up to the individual woman. Some women get sick during their pregnancies and would be unable to fast, while others, feel no adverse effects of fasting while pregnant. Therefore no woman feels obligated to fast if it would harm her or her child.

If you feel it is safe for you to choose to fast, start by talking to your healthcare provider. If she is not Muslim, or not familiar with fasting, explain it to her, so she can give you better advice. If you think you will be able to fast, ask her what symptoms to look for that indicate you should break your fast.

I have compiled some helpful tips to help you along the way, but keep in mind, they are just that — tips. Nothing in this article is intended as a religious ruling nor as a replacement for advice from your medical doctor. Also, keep in mind as you read that every body is different and reacts to fasting and pregnancy in different ways.

Let’s consider the following tips for a typical low-risk pregnancy.

Forget Spring Cleaning… This is Sha’ban Cleaning!

Use the days before Ramadan, release your inner clean freak and put your nesting syndrome to good use. Deep clean the house so you only have to do the light stuff during Ramadan.

Organise every closet in your home. That way, you find stuff you never knew you lost, and it’s the perfect time to put aside things you and your family no longer use to share with others in the community. Remember this rule of thumb, if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s time to “permanently share it” with someone else.

Do your Eid shopping BEFORE Ramadan even begins. According to a hadith, “The dearest parts on the face of the earth near Allah are its mosques, and the most hated parts near Allah are its markets” [Muslim]. Since the most hated parts on earth to Allah are the market places, who wants to spend a minute of Ramadan there?

Stock up on non-perishables and frozen groceries so that you can shorten the length of trips to the grocery store. Since it is inevitable that you will go, at least you can make the trips shorter.

Morning Sickness… You Make Me Sick

Most women find it difficult to fast during the first trimester because of morning sickness (which, in my opinion, should be officially renamed as any-time-of-day-sickness). It’s hard not to feel sad about this. The thought of having to make up these days on your own after Ramadan can be very daunting.

But here is the good news. There are many other ways you can increase your rewards when you just can’t fast. Here’s just some of them:

The first hadith in Imam Nawawi’s book of 40 hadiths is that, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended” [Al-Bukhari]. So make it your intention to fast this Ramadan. If your body rejects this idea later on, that’s okay. Allah knows.

Fasting is not the only goal of Ramadan. It is the means that Allah has chosen for us to gain taqwa (God consciousness, righteousness, goodness, piety) during Ramadan. So if you can’t fast, engage in other taqwa-strengthening activities.

Read Qur’an. Better yet, try to understand it.

Turn off the TV. Completely. All month. Take a deep breath. You’ll be fine.

Tell your chatty friends that you will not be on the phone (or Facebook) that much during Ramadan because you will be busy earning some rewards. That goes double for the friends who like to gossip.

As you are cooking and cleaning, keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah. Make istighfar, make tasbeeh, send prayers and peace to the Prophet(pbuh).

Add some extra prayers to your day, and taraweeh at night.

Give more sadaqah.

The best conclusion I have come to after much searching is that if you are unable to fast during Ramadan because of pregnancy, make the intention to make up the days you missed. Realistically, however, you will probably be breastfeeding within the coming year and unable to make up those days before next Ramadan. So to be on the safe side, feed a fasting person for every day that you miss, and then fast when you can. Allah knows best.

Remember what Allah says to us in Surah Al-Baqara when telling us about Ramadan. “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 185]. If you can fast, take care of yourself and your baby. On the other hand, if you find that it is too difficult, give thanks to Allah, for he has given you a special gift: to make up these days later.

The Honeymoon Phase of Pregnancy and the Home Stretch(marks)

Some women who are blessed with low-risk pregnancies and supportive families will be fortunate enough to fast if they are in what is referred to as the “Honeymoon Phase” of pregnancy. That’s when you’re done puking your guts out, and you’re not achy and unbearably uncomfortable yet. You’re like Goldilocks’ porridge; you’re just right. Even women at the end phase of pregnancy can often fast. The important thing is to listen to your body.

Don’t miss suhoor. You’ve gotten used to grazing all day, now you’ve got two meals that are spaced very far apart. Make them count. More importantly, the Prophet Mohammad(pbuh) said, “Eat Sahur, for in Sahur there is blessing.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

Hydrate your body. Drink lots of water. In fact, I would suggest drinking only water and avoiding tea, soda and other diuretics. The caffeine makes you thirsty and increases trips to the bathroom (as if you don’t go enough already).

Sip four little ounces of water every hour to help keep hydrated.

Make the calories count. Eat a variety of nutritious foods during iftar and suhoor.

Add some super foods to your dish, but be sneaky about it. For example, throw some spinach and celery into the food processor and add it to your pasta sauce.

Take your prenatal vitamins regularly.

Give your family and friends an opportunity to earn some rewards by helping you out with the housework and cooking. Then lavish them with gratitude and supplications.

I know this is easier said than done for many women, but try to avoid hosting big iftar parties. Potlucks are the way to go in Ramadan!

Eat with moderation at iftar. Resist the urge to eat until it hurts. You can have another healthy snack a bit later on, maybe after taraweeh or between prayers.

Try to avoid acidic or greasy foods that will give you heartburn, especially before bed. You may try to sleep propped up on a couple of pillows as well.

Have some Tums for dessert!

Beware of Dehydration

Dehydration is perhaps the greatest risk to be aware of if you are pregnant while fasting.

Anyone who has fasted can tell you that it’s normal to experience fatigue, dark urine, dry skin, dry mouth and of course, thirst. But now you are carrying another little human being inside your body who is dependent on your fluid intake.

In addition to dehydration symptoms that everyone experiences when fasting, the pregnant Muslimah should also keep in mind that becoming dehydrated can increase Braxton Hicks contractions (hardening of the tummy), decrease your baby’s activity, and if it becomes serious, dehydration can even lead to preterm labour.

For those of you fasting in tropical climates or the northern hemisphere, which is experiencing summer this Ramadan, you must be especially aware that in hot weather, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion in pregnant women. Some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, fatigue, nausea, an increased pulse, and possibly fainting.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best that you break your fast and rehydrate quickly. Again, do not despair. You have tried your best, and Allah 
knows best.

Enjoy Ramadan & Your Pregnancy

In my humble opinion, another way preparing for Ramadan resembles pregnancy is because we (should) spend the first months of the year leading up to Ramadan in a state of preparation for it. Just as you would be prepare for the birth of your child by shopping for baby things, pampering your body, getting the nursery ready, and so on.

Then, the last month of pregnancy is so uncomfortable. Yet, you want to enjoy every minute of it because you know that you will never be pregnant with this child again. At the same time, you can’t wait to be done with it and hold your baby in your arms.

A similar kind of thing happens with Ramadan. During the first eight months of the year, we talk about Ramadan… what we love and don’t love about it. We complain lovingly about the hunger pangs as a mother would complain lovingly about the trials of early motherhood. As the blessed month approaches, we start to prepare for it. What will we cook? How many times can we read the Qur’an?

Then the ninth month is upon us. Where did the time go? Just as in the ninth month of pregnancy, you want to savour it despite the discomfort and fatigue, even though at the same time, you look forward to when it is done.

Then finally, at long last, the exciting birth day arrives… EID.

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