Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Pregnancy?

With more and more Malaysians suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes, many are turning to various dieting methods to get their weight down to a healthy level. Although this diet doesn’t get as much exposure as some of the other fad celebrity diets, there’s a community of Malaysians that swear by intermittent fasting, as a way to help you manage your weight. But is it okay to attempt it when pregnant?

Forming a baby in the womb requires a vast amount of nutrition, and mum needs to be healthy for both of them to thrive. If you’re concerned about trying not to put on too much weight while pregnant and is considering fasting, read on to see if the benefits outweigh the risks to your baby. 

First of all.. What Is Intermittent Fasting? 

Intermittent fasting or usually referred to by its acronym IF simply means restricting your eating time to specified hours of the day or days of the week. One can follow many variations of IF and its ratios, but the most common among them is the 16/8, which involves eating only during an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours.

Another way to practice intermittent fasting is to eat normally on certain days of the week, provided you limit your eating down to 20% of your daily caloric intake on set days. Others even opt to adopt juicing while fasting and omit all solids as a form of detox or body cleansing. 

Aside from significant health benefits, those who have successfully done intermittent fasting claim that they seem to have more energy and are more alert. Research has also shown that intermittent fasting can substantially reduce insulin levels, which is great news for those at risk of Type 2 diabetes. Even those with insulin resistance can look forward to shedding some pounds. In addition to everything mentioned above, intermittent fasting has also been known to effectively remove waste from cells, allowing it to repair itself much faster.

So is Intermittent Fasting Safe when I am Pregnant?

As amazing as it sounds, intermittent fasting can be beneficial to many, provided you are not pregnant or have other underlying health issues. Fasting while you are pregnant, can affect your blood sugar levels. Have you ever felt dizzy and slightly light-headed when you’re starving? That happens when you do not have enough food in your system. In some cases, pregnant women have been known to pass out or have even fallen, and this could potentially hurt the baby they are carrying or themselves. 

Pregnant women also need an additional 300 calories per day while they are expecting. Seeing that if you’re fasting, then meeting those daily caloric intakes might prove to be challenging. If a pregnant mum calorie count goes into deficit, it could affect the baby’s overall wellbeing. Growing a baby is hard work and this is why doctors advise all expecting mums to stop any efforts for weight loss until after childbirth.

But what if I am overweight? 

Even if you do not continue with intermittent fasting, there are other ways for mums-to- be to keep their weights in check. You can always seek advice from your obstetrician on the right amount of food to consume since he or she would be monitoring your weight gain periodically throughout your nine months.

One of the ways to manage your weight while pregnant is to engage in some light exercise. This should be safe for all expecting mums provided they do not have any underlying health issues. Of course it would be best to stay away from high-intensity as well as contact sports. Otherwise, swimming, walking, stationary bikes and elliptical machines are all fine. Working out regularly is great because it can improve your posture and lessen common discomforts such as backaches and tiredness. In addition to that, exercise can also help to relieve stress, and help to build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.

Another way of course, is to be mindful of what you eat. Yes, you do need those extra calories, but don’t overdo the whole “eating for two” idea. Do load up on healthy fats, proteins and try to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into your diet to ensure you and your baby get the best nutrients to thrive. If you find that you’re nauseous all the time, try breaking your meals in to smaller snacks throughout the day and have some ginger tea.  Nausea can sometimes be due to your blood sugar fluctuating. 

The takeaway

While intermittent fasting can offer a lot of health benefits to most people, pregnant women should NOT attempt this diet at all. The main goal here is to keep your blood sugar stable and make sure you’re eating enough to ‘feed” your unborn child. So hold off attempting intermittent fasting until your baby is born or when you are ready to stop breastfeeding.

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