Is Intermittent Fasting Safe While Pregnant?
Pregnancy is a time of change for women. Your body will have many different needs, and you will go through many different clothes sizes as your baby bump grows. It is normal and quite healthy for women to put on weight during pregnancy. However, some women may be prone to packing on the pounds faster than others. If you have gained more weight than necessary during your pregnancy, you may now be looking into ways that can help you lose it.
Intermittent fasting has been becoming a very popular way of losing weight for men and women. Perhaps you are someone who has been doing this since before you were pregnant and are now wondering about its effects during pregnancy.
On the other hand, you may be looking into research about intermittent fasting due to religious reasons. If this is the case, remember that most religions exempt pregnant and breastfeeding mothers from partaking in any fast.
Whatever is fuelling your interest in intermittent fasting while pregnant, there are some things you should look into.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves fasting and then eating at controlled timings which are done over a period of time. There are three types of intermittent fasting. This involves fasting every alternate day, fasting for a few hours in a day and eating only at certain times, and periodic fasting, where you remain to fast over a few days at a time.
Most people tend to opt for the first kind, especially if they are indulging in intermittent fasting to lose weight. Here, they eat their calories only within a certain window frame that they have made for themselves. Some will choose to fast for 16 hours a day and eat only during an eight-hour window. This is referred to as the 16:8 method. Others may opt for the 5:2 method. This is where they eat normally for five days and then fast or eat low-calorie food for the other two days.
It is believed by some that intermittent fasting may be able to reduce the occurrence of inflammation and lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. The reason it is said to be able to help people to lose weight is that when you don’t eat, your body then taps into the fat stores for energy.
A study has shown that those who indulged in intermittent fasting managed to lose around 8% of body fat in the short span of two months.
Can You Do Intermittent Fasting During Pregnancy?
It is not recommended that women who are pregnant go ahead with intermittent fasting. The question that you should be asking is this: are there any benefits of intermittent fast when pregnant? Here are a few things about intermittent fasting that you should bear in mind if you are considering it while pregnant:
During the First Trimester
The first trimester is when most women tend to experience nausea and may even start to develop food aversion. This tends to happen at around six weeks to eight weeks. All this takes place due to the changing hormones as your body starts to prepare itself to grow and later give birth to your baby.
During the first trimester, your blood sugar tends to go down a bit and your resistance to insulin will improve for a little while. Your pancreas, too, starts to grow, and so there is more insulin being produced by your body. It has been found that even women who have type 1 diabetes and do not produce insulin will have a drop in their insulin dosage during the first three months of pregnancy. It has been theorized that this could be a result of the expansion of the beta-cell during pregnancy. This may result in a little insulin being produced temporarily.
At this time, you will be hungry, but because of your food aversion and your nausea, you will not really feel like eating much. If you try to eat a large meal at one time, it may result in you throwing it all up later. Your only option to satiate your hunger without becoming sick is to have small snacks or meals whenever you are hungry.
A cracker, healthy oat cookies or a granola bar may be some simple things your body can retain at this time. These do not usually keep you satiated for long, so you will feel the need to eat again rather quickly. This is why you should make sure to have healthy snacks on hand.
It is important for you to eat well during your first trimester, especially since your food aversions may not allow you to eat protein or fat during certain times. Forcing your body to fast at these times may make you feel even sicker.
The only way that you can satiate your hunger without having to give in to the nausea is to eat when you are hungry. At times like this, intermittent fasting is just not possible.
During the Second Trimester
For some women, their nausea and food aversions may lessen at this point and they can try to get into a regular eating pattern. Bear in mind that this is not true of everyone. Pregnant women need to focus on meeting their micronutrient needs. If you try to fast intermittently, it is going to reduce the opportunities you have to consume them.
There may be a few rare women who feel good when they eat only two meals a day during this time. If this is you, then you do not need to force yourself to eat more. As long as this is the pattern that your body naturally follows, there is nothing wrong with it.
When you are pregnant, however, you should never force your body to stop eating, rather, you should be listening to it. Eat more if that is what you need. Just remember, all your meals should be balanced.
During the Third Trimester
During your third trimester, you will probably find it the hardest to try to eat within a given window. At this stage of your pregnancy, your baby is growing and your belly will be pretty big. Your stomach can get quite compressed because of this. So, it becomes impossible to eat two large meals and forgo all other types of eating.
During your third trimester, your body will need around 2200 to 2600 calories per day. It is not possible for you to eat all that within the small window that you need when indulging in an intermittent fast. Your stomach will be too compressed to be able to digest the food.
Your body will need at least 73% more protein during late pregnancy. After all, you are growing another little human in your womb. Your insulin resistance is also quite high at this stage of pregnancy. The best option for women in their third trimester is to eat smaller meals throughout the day. It is extremely unwise to try an intermittent fast at this time. Speak to your doctor about the best diet for you during this trimester.
Risks of Doing Intermittent Fasting in Pregnancy
We have already seen that it is an unwise decision to indulge in intermittent fasting when you are pregnant. Here we discuss the impact of intermittent fasting on mom and baby:
- Intermittent fasting can lower the blood sugar of pregnant women too much. The blood pressure of women drops naturally during pregnancy, so when low blood pressure and blood sugar are combined, it can lead to fainting or light-headedness.
- Fasting women tend to have low glucose, and this means that there is less to share with your baby. This will result in lower foetal movement as your baby will not be getting the needed amount of nutrition.
What Kind of Intermittent Fast Diet Is Appropriate in Case a Pregnant Woman Chooses to Fast
If you are pregnant and still wish to fast, then you may want to consider fasting for only 12 hours. The best fast for pregnant women is to be done overnight. So, a 12 hour fast would look something like this: you eat from 7 am or 8 am in the morning until 7 pm or 8 pm at night. It is recommended to stick to a normal diet and not try to cut anything out. This is especially true when it comes to cutting out anything essential or trying to squeeze too much into a short period of time. It is best to eat a little every few hours.
If you feel like this fast means that there is not much actual fasting going on, remember that while you are pregnant, it is still quite a task to avoid eating for those few hours before bed. You do not sleep for the entire 12 hours, so there actually is a little bit of a fast going on during the hours that you are awake.
Should You Stop Your Diet While Pregnant If You Were Doing It Before Pregnancy?
Yes, it is extremely important for you to have a regular diet while pregnant. This will help in maintaining yours and your baby’s blood sugar and blood pressure. If the reason you were fasting intermittently was for weight loss, then you can actually switch your diet around. Rather than trying to lose weight, remember that you need to gain a few pounds during your pregnancy to remain healthy.
This may cause some alarm in some of you, after all, there is a chance you may gain too much weight. The key is not to lose or gain randomly, but to maintain a healthy weight for the trimester you are in. There may be times when you do need to lose only a little weight, and at others, where you need to gain some weight.
This will depend on you as an individual. Be sure to have this discussion with your doctor. Most of the time, you will need to cut out unhealthy foods such as processed foods, food that is high in sugar, carbonated drinks and others. A fresh and natural diet can work wonders when you are pregnant.
The new diet that you may have to follow to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy is to widen the window for eating. This is a complete turn around for you if you are used to the intermittent fasting, but it is a healthier way for both you and your baby. The idea is not to binge eat during this entire time. Instead, you should focus on eating healthy food in smaller quantities. Stick to a more balanced diet, and you will be able to avoid putting on too much weight.
Intermittent fasting and pregnancy is not a match made in heaven. While it may be a great way to lose weight otherwise, you should always bear in mind that you are now responsible for another life. What you eat, or don’t eat will affect your baby. Even how you eat and how much you eat are important.
The hormonal changes your body is going through is already going to affect your body, so rather than focusing on intermittent fasting, you should focus on eating right and following your doctor’s orders. Maintain the right weight during your respective stage in pregnancy, even if it is not the ideal weight you would like to be. The health of your baby is more important.
If you are looking into intermittent fasting for religious purposes, speak with your respective religious elder. In most religions, women are not compelled to fast when pregnant.
Remember, each woman is different, and not all women experience the same symptoms during pregnancy. This makes it even more important to have a discussion with your doctor on any changes that you want to make during pregnancy. Whether it is about a new diet or fast, or whether it is a new exercise, your doctor will know what is right for you to do in order to keep your baby healthy.