Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant: Why It’s Not Recommended

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What is Intermittent fasting | Is it Safe | Can you do Intermittent Fasting while pregnant | Tips to Follow | Intermittent Fasting Before Pregnancy | Risks

Intermittent fasting is becoming one of the most desired ways of eating by many dieters. More and more people are adapting to this lifestyle and experiencing its fantastic health benefits. But can you follow intermittent fasting while pregnant? 

Pregnancy is all about nutritious food and the baby’s health. A healthy weight gain is common during pregnancy and should not be a concern. If you are planning to follow intermittent fasting or you are already practicing this fasting and want to know if you can continue, you must discuss it with your doctor. In the meantime, here is the detailed report on what science says about fasting during pregnancy. 

What is Intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a type of fasting in which you eat food for a certain period of time and fast for the rest of the day. There are various types of intermittent fasting like 16/8, 5:2, and many more. In the most common method – 16/8, you follow fasting every day, where you eat in an 8-hour window and fast the rest of the day.  

There is a lot of evidence available that shows various health benefits of intermittent fasting.  Fasting generally puts your body into ketosis, helping to burn fat. Fasting also;

  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Delays aging

Intermittent fasting reduces your calorie intake and can help you achieve your weight loss goals faster. It is a simple eating pattern that focuses on when to eat and not what to eat. 

can you do intermittent fasting while pregnant

Is it Safe to Fast While Pregnant?

Following any kind of restricted diet during pregnancy can affect the development and growth of the fetus. Low birth weight and altered growth can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Research studies suggest that restricted eating during pregnancy can cause preterm delivery and reduced birth weight

However, there are conflicting study results on fasting during pregnancy, and further research is needed. A study that evaluated pregnant Muslim women fasting during Ramadan revealed that fasting does not cause any adverse effect on women’s health and growth of the fetus. 

During pregnancy, you should focus more on providing proper nutrition to the growing baby. Your body undergoes various changes during this phase; hence a healthy diet is needed. Sudden changes in diet patterns or restrictions of food can create nutritional deficiency. Also, fasting can reduce your blood sugar levels way too much, which is not advisable. 

Fasting effects on pregnancy are unpredictable, and therefore it is not considered safe. Discussing with your healthcare provider to have a personalized diet plan can be a better approach. If you are worried about weight gain during pregnancy, discuss with your doctor and follow a diet under proper guidance.

Can you do Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant?

Though intermittent fasting carries many health benefits, it can not be considered safe during pregnancy. Intermittent fasting reduces your blood sugar level, which can make you feel dizzy and weak. 

According to studies, blood glucose levels during pregnancy determine fetal movements. Overnight fasting of more than 12 hours is not recommended for pregnant women. An intense form of intermittent fasting can be harmful during pregnancy. Instead, eating healthy, nutritious food and regular exercise can help you manage weight. Reduce the consumption of junk food or unhealthy snacks to avoid unnecessary weight gain. 

Tips to Follow While Fasting During Pregnancy

The traditional fasting types like 16:8 intermittent fasting (where you have an 8-hour eating window) or 5:2 method (in which you fast for 2 days a week) are considered intense and not advised during pregnancy. 

Generally, pregnant women are asked to eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours. This helps to maintain blood sugar levels. Morning sickness and heartburn are commonly seen during pregnancy. To avoid heartburn, eat food 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Due to morning sickness, maybe you are already doing overnight fasting by not consuming meals early in the morning. This is somewhat an intermittent fasting routine, but you should avoid fasting for more than 12 hours. 

Do not follow any intense type of diet restriction. An extreme type of intermittent fasting and losing weight will have adverse effects. Pregnancy is unique for every individual: hence if you have any concern regarding weight management, discuss with your doctor. 

is it safe to do intermittent fasting while pregnant

What If you are Practicing Intermittent Fasting Before Pregnancy?

If you have adapted to an intermittent fasting lifestyle and are willing to continue it during pregnancy, you should consult your doctor. Instead of being very restrictive, you can be more flexible with your eating pattern. You should shift your focus from weight loss to having more healthy, nutritious meals every day.

In pregnant women maintaining blood sugar levels is essential. Hence increase your eating window and consume a balanced diet. Have frequent meals to provide a continuous supply of nutrients to your body. Your appetite increases during pregnancy, accordingly make changes and adapt to these new requirements. 

Risks of Intermittent Fasting During Pregnancy

The long-term risks of fasting during pregnancy are not clear. As mentioned earlier, reduced fetal movements are one of the commonly experienced adverse effects of fasting. Low fetal movements are considered warning signs for preterm delivery. 

According to studies, fasting for a prolonged period during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of elevated maternal corticotropin-releasing hormone. This may result in various health consequences for the mother and the baby. Fasting can cause extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy leading to dehydration. 

Also, nutritional deficiencies like iron deficiency anemia are commonly seen during pregnancy. During pregnancy, your body needs a continuous supply of nutrients. Restricting your eating to a particular time is not advisable. Instead, focus more on healthy eating and doing light exercises every day to maintain your weight. 

Bottom Line

It is not a good idea to start or continue with intermittent fasting during pregnancy. You can try these diet approaches after pregnancy when you and your baby are in full health. However, if you have anxiety about pregnancy and weight gain, seek medical help. Each person is different, and every pregnancy is unique. Based on your metabolism and health, your doctor can guide you with a suitable diet routine. Follow your doctor’s guidelines about diet and focus on having a healthy pregnancy. 

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Information on this document and our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a dietitian, physician or another health-care professional. Consult your physician before starting intermittent fasting, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have any medical condition, or are taking any medication. Read more here.