Fasting during the month of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan is considered one of the five pillars of Islam, but for pregnant (and nursing) mothers, it can also be a very unhealthy choice that could have a host of bad consequences.
There are special provisions set by religious leaders that say a pregnant woman can opt out of the holiday and then make up the fast another time.
But some women still choose to fast from sunrise to sundown for the 30-day holiday, which started August 11 and will continue through September 10.
According to some doctors, the women who do this, especially when Ramadan falls during the summer (it's the ninth month of the Islamic calendar), are putting their babies at risk.
In fact, according to a Columbia University study, women who fast during pregnancy could give birth to a low birth weight child or a child who has learning disabilities later in life.
According to the BBC:
The researchers from Columbia University found that this trend was most marked if mothers-to-be fasted early on in their pregnancy and during the summer when longer days meant they went more hours without food.
Religious leaders say pregnant women shouldn't attempt to fast as it puts the health of their unborn baby at risk.
Others who study Islamic law say a woman can make up the fast later or she may give money to charity instead, but many still opt to fast.
The same principles apply to the Jewish Day of Atonement, better known as Yom Kippur, which falls on September 18 in 2010 and also requires a sunrise through sunset fast. There is some debate, but Jewish women who are pregnant but wish to fast are often advised to remain in bed through the day.
Regardless, any woman considering a fast for any reason, religious or otherwise, should consult with her doctor or midwife.
Did you fast for Ramadan? Any advice for those who do?
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