Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular diets among people who care about their health and fitness. Intermittent fasting is becoming more and more popular as a way for both men and women to lose weight. You may have been doing this since before you found out you were pregnant, and now you’re curious about how it will affect your pregnancy. Regardless of what sparked your interest in intermittent fasting (IF), you may have a hundred questions about intermittent fasting during pregnancy. This blog will help you clear your doubts.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
The idea of intermittent fasting is to limit how many calories you eat during a certain time frame. This way to lose weight is to either not eat at all during the fasting window or to eat very little. Intermittent fasting alternates between brief periods of fasting, with no food or a significant reduction in calories, and periods of unrestricted eating.
The following are the most common intermittent fasting strategies:
- Alternate-day fasting: In this type of intermittent fasting, one has a normal diet one day, then fasts or eats a small meal with about 25% of daily calories (less than 500 calories) the next day
- 5:2 fasting: This diet involves no food restrictions on five days and a 400-500 calorie diet on the other two days
- 24 hrs fasting: The Eat-Stop-Eat diet, also known as 24-hour fasting, entails abstaining from food for a period of 24 hours on one or two days per week
- Daily time-restricted fasting. When it comes to daily fasting restrictions, various time windows are possible. The most popular eating pattern is 12: 12, which consists of 12 hours of eating and 12 hours of fasting. Another eating pattern is the 16:8 method, which consists of a 16-hour daily fast followed by an 8-hour eating window. The most extreme form of intermittent daily fasting is 20:4 with only a 4-hour window for eating
Can You Do Intermittent Fasting During Pregnancy?
Women who are expecting a child should avoid engaging in the practice of intermittent fasting because it can lead to a variety of complications during pregnancy and is unsafe for the developing child.
Regardless of the weight prior to conception, the pregnant woman should gain weight during pregnancy. During pregnancy, even an obese woman should gain some weight. The doctor will make an individualized weight gain recommendation. Gaining weight is an indicator that everything is going well with the pregnancy. There is no valid reason to engage in intermittent fasting during pregnancy given that it is designed to aid in weight loss.
Let’s take a look at the possible outcomes of intermittent fasting during the first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Intermittent fasting during pregnancy first trimester
It is essential for you to keep a healthy diet and increase the frequency of your meals during the first trimester of your pregnancy. This is because nausea and morning sickness you may experience during this time may prevent anything you eat from staying in your stomach.
Pregnant women should eat a variety of nutritious foods during this time, since they may experience food aversions that hinder their ability to consume adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats. Consuming food when they are hungry is the only way for them to satisfy their hunger without experiencing nausea. Intermittent fasting cannot be practiced under these circumstances. Forcing your body to fast during these times may worsen your symptoms.
Intermittent fasting during pregnancy second trimester
Women who are pregnant should place their primary focus during the second trimester on ensuring that they are meeting their needs for a variety of micronutrients. The fetus goes through a great deal of significant development during this stage of the pregnancy. Intermittent fasting can have negative effects on a pregnant woman’s ability to get enough micronutrients, which can compromise the baby’s healthy growth and development.
Intermittent fasting during pregnancy third trimester
At this point in your pregnancy, your baby is growing, and as a result, your stomach can become quite compressed. Thus, when you’re in your third trimester, it might be hard to eat only at certain times.
During your third trimester, your body will need around 2400 calories per day1. When engaging in an intermittent fast, it is not possible to consume all of those foods within the small window allowed. You will be unable to digest the food because your stomach will be too compressed.
Also, pregnant women require at least 73% more protein during their final trimester2. Extremely high levels of insulin resistance are also present during this time of pregnancy. So, it’s best for pregnant women in their third trimester to eat several small meals regularly throughout the day. Attempting an intermittent fast at this time is strongly discouraged.
Related Reading: 21 Pregnancy Superfoods To Include In Your Pregnancy Diet
The Cons Of Intermittent Fasting During Pregnancy
Intermittent fasting during pregnancy comes with a number of risks that could hurt both the mother and the unborn child. Keep reading to find out more.
1. Increases the risk of dehydration
This risk pertains to pregnant women who wish to begin intermittent fasting during their pregnancy. There will be significant fluid and electrolyte loss in the first few days of intermittent fasting. Dehydration and low salt levels are possible outcomes3. Both are not favorable for the healthy progression of pregnancy. Also, pregnant women practicing intermittent fasting may forget to drink or may not drink enough. This further increases the likelihood of dehydration. Numerous complications during pregnancy have been linked to dehydration.
2. May trigger intense acidity
Intermittent fasting can have unintended consequences, such as altering the stomach’s acid balance. High levels of stomach acid can develop when there is no food in the stomach for it to digest. . This accumulation of acid can result in pain and discomfort in the epigastric region (also known as heartburn), as well as regurgitation of the acid into the esophagus (also known as acid reflux). Some people experience worsened acid-related stomach pain when they wake up with an empty stomach. Pregnant women are at increased risk for acid reflux due to the rise in pregnancy hormones. Going to bed without eating at night while pregnant further increases the risk of acidity.
3. Can cause hypoglycemia
Gestational diabetes is linked to high blood sugar levels and poses a serious threat to many pregnant women. However, pregnancies complicated by hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are also of concern. When practicing intermittent fasting, it is possible to experience a drop in blood sugar from not eating for extended periods of time.
Hypoglycemia, or low sugar level, is more likely to occur in pregnant women who follow restrictive diets or fast for extended periods of time, especially those who take medication for diabetes4.
4. Sleep disturbances
According to the findings of some studies, one of the most common negative effects of intermittent fasting is sleep disruption. These can take the form of an inability to fall asleep or to maintain sleep once it has been achieved5. When they are pregnant, women have special sleep requirements that must be met. Sleep deprivation can bring about many pregnancy complications.
5. Low fetal movement
Women who fast typically have lower glucose levels, which means that there is less glucose available for the mother to pass on to her child. Because of this, there will be less movement in the fetus because your baby will not be receiving the appropriate amount of nutrition6.
6. Can cause vitamin/nutrient deficiencies
Pregnant women have increased nutritional needs to ensure their own and their child’s health. With intermittent fasting, you only eat during a small window of the day, making it challenging to get all the nutrients you need during pregnancy. This increases the risk of pregnancy and fetal complications.
7. Increase the risk of anemia
Eating only during certain times of the day or on certain days of the week can make it challenging to get enough of the nutrients you need during pregnancy. The fact that the fetus also draws on the mother’s nutritional reserves increases the mother’s health risks. Pregnant women already have a higher risk of developing complications like anemia. Low maternal iron stores during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of anemia in infants before their first birthday7.
8. Can trigger light headedness
Women who are expecting may experience dangerously low blood sugar levels if they engage in intermittent fasting. Further, a woman’s blood pressure naturally drops during pregnancy. When the two are brought together, they can cause dizziness or even fainting.
Related Reading: 7 Home Remedies For Headache During Pregnancy
9. Premature birth or preterm birth risks may increase
A woman’s risk of complications during pregnancy increases significantly if she fasts during the second trimester8. According to a study, women who fasted during their second trimester were 35% more likely to give birth before their due date. The study was conducted among women fasting during Ramadan rather than intermittent fasting windows specifically. Nonetheless, intermittent fasting resembles Ramadan fasting.
10. Digestive issues
The reduction in food intake that is required for some intermittent fasting regimens can have a negative impact on digestion, which can lead to constipation and other unwanted side effects. In addition, the changes in diet that are typically associated with intermittent fasting programs can sometimes result in symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea9.
16/8 Intermittent Fasting And Pregnancy
16/8 intermittent fasting is not advised. No pregnant woman should ever go without food for about 16 hours. A pregnant woman may experience severe hunger, headaches, weakness, constipation, and fatigue if she goes 16 hours without eating.
Does Intermittent Fasting Hurt Pregnancy?
Yes. Intermittent fasting can have a negative impact on the normal progression of a healthy pregnancy. The digestive system, which is already weakened because of the increased levels of pregnancy hormones, will be further harmed as a result of the practice of fasting. Similarly, intermittent fasting reduces nutrient intake, which may negatively impact the progression of pregnancy, the health of the mother, and the development of the fetus.
What’s The Best Intermittent Fast For A Pregnant Woman?
If you are pregnant and want to still fast, you should probably think about 12: 12 intermittent fasting. 12 hours without eating while pregnant is relatively harmless. During the 12 hours of the eating window, pregnant women can consume nutritious food so that their nutritional requirements are not compromised. Safe fasting for 12 hours would look like this: you eat from 7 or 8 in the morning until 7 or 8 in the evening. This way, the mother will spend the majority of the fasting window sleeping.
Healthy eating and getting enough nutrition to nourish you and your growing baby should be your top priorities during pregnancy, not slimming down. Pregnancy is not the time to try intermittent fasting. Your baby will be affected by the food you eat or don’t eat while you’re pregnant. It matters how you eat and how much you eat. You should prioritize healthy eating and follow your doctor’s advice instead of intermittent fasting. Keep your weight at the right level for your trimester, even if it’s not your ideal. You should prioritize your baby’s health above all else.