If you have ever struggled to control your weight, you may have given intermittent fasting a try. Many adherents of the practice swear it can help you manage your weight and even stave off conditions such as Type 2 diabetes. However, is it safe for pregnant women?
Growing babies need a ton of nutrition and a stable environment in which to thrive. While intermittent fasting does offer some health benefits, do they outweigh the risks to the fetus?
What Is Intermittent Fasting, and Why Do People Practice It?
Intermittent fasting (IF) refers to restricting your eating to specified hours of the day or days of the week. Two basic variations exist.
The first form of IF resembles the natural fast many people experience when they sleep. However, dieters restrict their intake for more than the typical eight-hour period. They may eat normally between the hours of noon to 8 p.m., for example. Then, they fast for 16 hours.
The second form entails eating normally on some days of the week but restricting caloric intake to 20% of the typical amount consumed on other days.
Fasting on just juice for a period — you may have heard this referred to as “juicing” or “juice cleansing” — is another popular method of intermittent fasting. Supporters of this method claim juicing eliminates toxins from the body, though no solid evidence currently exists to support such claims.
Adherents of IF claim they experience more energy and significant health benefits. Research shows that this method of weight control does reduce insulin levels substantially, which can potentially help counteract Type 2 diabetes. It could also help supercharge the paring-down efforts of those who find shedding unwanted pounds challenging due to insulin resistance. In addition, it may help remove waste from cells more quickly and speed cellular repair.
Is IF Safe for Pregnant Women?
As beneficial as IF is for many individuals, pregnant women shouldn’t engage in the practice for multiple reasons. IF may prove dangerous for pregnant women due to blood sugar levels. If you have ever gotten extremely hungry, you’re familiar with how you can grow dizzy and lightheaded from a lack of food. This sensation can cause pregnant women to pass out and fall, potentially hurting their fetus — or themselves. Expectant mothers have a higher tendency to develop joint disorders already, and a fall could cause painful injury.
Another reason pregnant women should avoid intermittent fasting has to do with their recommended caloric intake. Women need an additional 300 calories per day while expecting, and it can prove challenging to meet this need, particularly if she participates in the every-other-day fast.
This increased need for energy and nutrients is why doctors advise women with a baby on board to hit pause on their weight loss efforts until after childbirth. They recommend that even obese women gain 11-20 pounds throughout their pregnancy.
Suggested Methods of Weight Control During Pregnancy
If doctors don’t recommend IF for pregnant women, what can moms-to-be with concerns about their weight do? For starters, they should follow their OB-GYN's recommendations for how much to consume and gain.
In general, it is safe for pregnant women to exercise unless they have an underlying health concern. You should avoid high-intensity or contact sports, however. Swimming and walking are ideal choices, as is riding a stationary bike or elliptical machine. Working out helps control your weight and might assist you with shedding excess pounds once you give birth.
While you do need extra calories, you don’t want to get them all from high-fat, processed foods. Strive to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into your diet to ensure you and your baby get all the phytonutrients you need to thrive. If you experience morning sickness, keeping whole-grain crackers by your bedside can help curb nausea that sometimes arises from blood sugar fluctuations.