Clinical Opinion|Articles in Press

Ramadan Fasting and Pregnancy: An Evidence-Based Guide for the Obstetrician

Published:March 18, 2023DOI:
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      Pregnant Muslim women may be religiously exempt from fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, especially if there is concern for undue hardship or harm to maternal or fetal health. However, several studies demonstrate that most women still choose to fast during pregnancy and avoid discussing fasting with their providers. A targeted literature review of published studies on fasting during Ramadan and pregnancy/maternal and fetal outcomes was performed. We generally found little to no clinically significant effect of fasting on neonatal birthweight or preterm delivery. Conflicting data exist on fasting and mode of delivery. Fasting during Ramadan has been mainly associated with signs and symptoms of maternal fatigue and dehydration, with a minimal decrease in weight gain. There is conflicting data regarding the association with gestational diabetes mellitus and insufficient data on maternal hypertension. Fasting may affect some antenatal fetal testing indices—including non-stress tests, lower amniotic fluid levels, and lower biophysical profile scores. Current literature on the long-term effects of fasting on offspring suggests possible adverse effects, but more data is required. The quality of evidence was negatively impacted by the variation in defining “fasting during Ramadan” in pregnancy; study size and design; and potential confounders. Therefore, in counseling patients, obstetricians should be prepared to discuss the nuances in the existing data while demonstrating cultural and religious awareness and sensitivity to foster a trusting relationship between patient and provider. We provide a framework for obstetricians and other prenatal care providers to aid in that effort and supplemental materials to encourage patients to seek clinical advice on fasting. Providers should engage patients in a shared decision-making process and offer them a nuanced review of the evidence (including limitations) and individualized recommendations based on clinical experience and patient history. Finally, should certain patients choose to fast while pregnant, providers should offer medical recommendations, closer observation, and support to reduce harm and hardship while fasting.



      BMI (Body Mass Index), CI (Confidence Interval), GDM (Gestational Diabetes Mellitus), g: gram(s) (lbs: pounds (measurement of weight)), OR (Odds Ratio), SD (Standard Deviation), SMD (Standard Mean Difference), UAE (United Arab Emirates), US (United States)