Is It Safe For Pregnant Women To Fast During Navratri?


Dusshera is one of the most auspicious festivals celebrated across India for 9 days. It is celebrated differently in the north, west, east, and south of India. A major tradition common among the various cultures in India is to fast during Dusshera. Fasting, commonly known as ‘Vrat’ is observed in various methods according to family traditions. Generally, a Sathvik diet is followed during the fast that excludes all kinds of spices, whole grains, onion, garlic, meat etc.

Cultural backgrounds restrict expecting mothers from fasting, keeping in mind the developing foetus which may vary from person to person. Expecting mothers choose to fast for various religious beliefs and some pregnant women do fast during Navratri. Pregnant women require additional calories during pregnancy to meet the demands of a growing foetus.

The conditions of pregnant women must be taken under consideration before fasting like being overweight/underweight/low Hb levels/poor nutritional status/foetus development etc. The condition of the body might be different in the three trimesters.

First trimester:

The additional calorie requirement in the first trimester is +300kcal per day. The discomfort faced during the first trimester is not same for all the pregnant women. Here are few common problems faced in the first trimester:

  • Heartburn
  • Acidity
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Food aversions
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Dehydration

The first trimester is considered the most crucial stage of pregnancy as the foetus just starts to develop in the womb. Food aversions mainly develop during this stage along with nausea which makes eating meals difficult. It is better to eat what the mother likes, is comfortable with and allowed during fasting. Emphasis to be made on eating frequent small meals and not about meals being balanced and completely nutritious. A good idea is to eliminate certain type of foods like grains and observe fasting with alternatives.

Second trimester:

The additional calorie requirement in the second trimester is +340kcal per day. Usually for many women this is the most enjoyable trimester where one feels more pregnant leaving behind the morning sickness of the first trimester. Pregnancy is different for different people and some continue to have fatigue and morning sickness. In this trimester the foetus develops to look more like a child. At the end of the trimester, you are likely to feel the baby and its movements. Here are the body developments or changes during second trimester:

  • Continued morning sickness and nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Hunger pangs
  • Stomach aches
  • Swelling of feet, hands and puffiness of the face

There will be an increase in the appetite and changes in hunger pattern due to the developing foetus. The body demands for more nutrition to cater to the needs of the developing foetus. The main aim is to listen to the body, observe the signs and meet its demands. In the absence of additional nutrition i.e., fasting the body derives nutrients from the mother’s nutritional stores in the body. This process depletes the mother’s nutritional storage which will show up with problems in later life affecting health. Fasting can be observed keeping in mind the demands of the body and hence eliminating a particular food group like grains and replacing with alternatives can be effective for both pregnancy and fasting.

Third trimester:

The additional calorie requirement in the third trimester is +450kcal. The foetus continues to grow in size and develop organs like brain,lungs, kidney etc. The mother is closely observed as gestational diabetes and fluctuations in the blood pressure mainly develop in the third trimester. If having such issues, a therapeutic diet must be followed prescribed by a qualified dietitian and under the guidance of the gynaecologist. If no such issues are present fasting can be observed by elimination of a meal per day or by replacing a food group like grains with allowed alternatives.

Fasting can be observed by eliminating a meal or foods like grains and replacing them with fruits, singada atta, sabudana, vegetables etc.

It is best advised to see a doctor and nutritionist who will examine your pregnancy conditions and advice if you can fast or not.

Author Bio: Nidhi S, Health Coach & Founder, Half Life to Health

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