Can You Do Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant – Is It Safe?

Dieser Artikel basiert auf wissenschaftlichen Studien

Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant | Safety | Risks | Fertility | Before | Post Pregnancy | Keto | Conclusion | FAQ | Studies

Since scientists could prove numerous health benefits of intermittent fasting, the interest in the method exploded.

During pregnancy, the female body undergoes constant change.
Therefore you should always speak with your doctor before you change your eating habits substantially.

Even if you are very experienced in intermittent fasting, the question arises whether the pregnancy is the right time for it.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting means that you eat within a certain period and fast the rest of the day.

Although there are types of intermittent fasting, the most popular is fasting during a 16-hour time window.

Hence, with the 16/8 schedule, you only eat during a time window of 8 hours per day, for example, from noon to 8 PM.

Drinking, however, is allowed around the clock, as long as it is water, black coffee, or tea without any additives.

Health Benefits of Fasting

In summary, there are two main reasons for intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss
  • Health benefits

A process called autophagy induces the lion’s share of the fasting’s health benefits that have made it that popular.

Weight loss, however, is induced by another process called ketosis. In short, it is nothing else than your body tapping into stored fat due to a lack of energy supply.

Remarkably, both fat burning and autophagy require low levels of storage hormone insulin.

As a result, we get a third substantial benefit of intermittent fasting. It increases insulin sensitivity, thus improves blood-sugar metabolism and fights metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Autophagy and Ketosis

Fasting induces autophagy, a cellular recycling mechanism that replaces broken cell parts with new ones and detoxifies the body.

Besides preventing cancer, diabetes, liver, or autoimmune diseases, this fasting cleanse can also slow down the aging process (Levine et al. 20171; Gelino et al. 20122).

On the other hand, Ketosis means that the body has emptied its carbohydrate stores and therefore burns fat for energy production.

Since the body delivers the energy in the form of ketone bodies through the bloodstream, this state of fat burning is called ketosis.

This natural mechanism has ensured the survival of our species. Thus, the body can tap into body fat during food shortages, such as once in winter or today when fasting.

Moreover, the body is in a state of fasting between dinner and waking up for our first meal. Also, this applies to pregnant women.

Accordingly, ketosis during pregnancy is not only completely normal but also enhanced by it.

For this reason, the ketone level in the blood of healthy pregnant women after a night’s fasting is about three times higher than that of women who are not pregnant (Felig et al. 19703).

With this in mind, two living beings need additional energy, which the body can supply through ketosis.

So we summarize that intermittent fasting helps the body to achieve the following effects:

  • Weight loss through fat burning
  • Recycling of cells instead of growth

Can You Do Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant?

After many women ask themselves whether it is safe to practice intermittent fasting during pregnancy, there is a general answer.

Always talk to your doctor before you make any significant changes to your diet.

If we consider that intermittent fasting promotes weight loss and limits growth, a controversy about pregnancy arises.

Pregnancy, on the other hand, has different goals than fasting:

  • Weight gain of the child
  • Growth in a short time

Since the goals could hardly be more opposite, it surprises little that nobody can recommend intermittent fasting while a woman is pregnant.

Beyond that, there are too few studies that could give well-founded recommendations over whether intermittent fasting has positive or negative effects on the pregnancy.

Furthermore, no studies are targeting intermittent fasting during the entire pregnancy.

Aggravating is that studies about fasting while pregnancy are limited to Ramadan.

During this religious type of intermittent fasting, one does not eat from sunrise to sunset. In contrast to intermittent fasting for health benefits, you, therefore, eat right before and after sleep.

With this in mind, the significance of these studies for intermittent fasting decreases.

However, these studies on Ramadan fasting while pregnancy suggest that the following characteristics are not influenced by the fast (Glazier et al. 20184; Petherick et al. 20145):

  • Birth Weight
  • Premature births

Although these investigations do not suggest any adverse effects of fasting on pregnancy, the researchers agree that there is still far too little data to conclude.

Moreover, we have to note that the Islamic fasting custom excludes pregnant women. Nevertheless, many of them do fast.

However, it is interesting that a current study could determine the reduced risk of gestational diabetes and obesity by fasting in the second trimester (Safari et al. 20196).

Intermittent fasting is not ideal in pregnancy

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe During Pregnancy?

Although we struggle with these diseases of too much growth and proteins, there are still phases in life where growth is the main focus. And pregnancy is an essential one of them.

Accordingly, two lives require more energy and protein than just one.

Increased ketone levels of pregnant women stress out this fact. If there is not enough energy available to ensure a child’s healthy growth, the body mobilizes energy from fat reserves (Felig et al. 19707).

Therefore, pregnancy is a period that has special priorities:

  • Nutrient supply for healthy body development
  • Exceptional growth and weight gain in a short time
  • Development of maternal fat reserves for breastfeeding

Likewise, the purpose of breast milk in all mammals stresses out these goals of growth and weight gain.

Against this background, dramatically changing eating habits can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Moreover, fasting can change the hormone balance. For example, the release of norepinephrine is increased, which is not ideal during a period of rest (Zauner et al. 20008).

On top of that, human bodies are individual. Thus fasting can have different effects. Therefore nothing can replace the personal exchange with a doctor you trust.

Therefore apparent alternatives arise in pregnancy:

  • Working out an individual plan for healthy weight gain with the help of medical professionals
  • Listening to your body, as it is always striving for the nutrients it needs (except the addictive effect of sugar)

Risks of Doing Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant

During pregnancy, you already have enough on your mind. Therefore a strict fasting protocol would probably only increase the stress.

If you do not take care of yourself, you run the risk of not providing your child with the high-quality food it needs.

Above all, long-term effects are largely unclear due to a lack of appropriate research.

While some Ramadan fasting studies claim to affect fetal respiration, others say there is no link at all between fasting and child health (Mirghani et al. 20049; Petherick et al. 201410).

With this in mind, we have to conclude that rigorous intermittent fasting during pregnancy is a risk.

Ultimately, adequate nutrient supply for mother and child has priority.

For example, iron deficiency is a problem that occurs in pregnant women, as the iron requirement increases exponentially due to the fetus. Accordingly, potential anemia is a threat to both the child and the mother (Garzon et al. 202011).

Adequate intake of minerals from natural food can minimize such risks. In iron deficiency, consumption of beef liver (*) or beetroot (*) can prevent iron deficiency.

But Intermittent Fasting Helped Me Get Pregnant

In our context, it’s interesting that restoring the natural balance between feasting and fasting can benefit fertility.

Accordingly, researchers observed an increase in the luteinizing hormone that promotes ovulation due to intermittent fasting.

Additionally, the weight loss and mental health resulting from fasting contribute to fertility (Nair et al. 201612).

PCOS is the most common metabolic disorder in women. Thereby cysts on the ovaries develop induced by a hormonal imbalance.

Like type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome is characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. More precisely, it is even caused by strong insulin resistance, which also increases the risk of diabetes in young women enormously (Ali 201513).

Intermittent Fasting Before Pregnancy

Since it can increase fertility, intermittent fasting seems quite practicable, as far as still no pregnancy is suspected.

If you do intermittent fasting before pregnancy to increase a future mother’s health, you might reap benefits while pregnant.

When we look at the health benefits of intermittent fasting, that can make sense:

  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved metabolism
  • Increased fat burning
  • Improved gut health

However, when getting pregnant, even experienced fasting enthusiasts should individually discuss the topic with a professional. She might even allow you to continue mild fasting due to your condition.

Keto and Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant

That you cannot continue fasting precisely the same way does not mean that you have to neglect your diet during pregnancy.

That’s why you can always focus on healthy fats and avoid refined carbohydrates during your meals.

For example, this means reducing sweets, bread, and other bakery and instead include grass-fed butter, virgin coconut oil, or avocados into your diet.

Simultaneously, this mild keto-style fat fasting can keep you fuller for longer and prevent gestational diabetes without having to forego adequate nutritional intake.

Nevertheless, you need not be ashamed of eating more during pregnancy. An excess of 200-400 calories per day is relatively standard in a healthy pregnancy.

However, even during pregnancy, you should prefer natural foods and gratefully reject processed foods from colorful packaging.

You may feel lethargic and dirty, especially in the first few months. Although this may sound controversial, exercise can improve the condition.

Furthermore, adequate physical exercise improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of gestational diabetes (Nasiri-Amiri et al. 201914).

Additionally, exercise can even reduce the risk of cesarean section delivery (Owe et al. 201615).

If you have been exercising regularly before pregnancy, this is ideal. Nevertheless, even in this case, it is necessary to ask your doctor if you need to change your exercise routine.

In case you want to get some exercise in your life right now, walking, cycling, or swimming in moderate units (up to 45 minutes) might be suitable, provided that your doctor approves this.

Intermittent Fasting Post Pregnancy

That you should not overdo intermittent fasting while pregnant does not mean that you cannot find back into your fasting plan afterward.

However, after the strains of birth, there is no question that you cannot immediately go from 0 to 100 again. And if you are breastfeeding, you have to discuss this intention with your doctor.

Nevertheless, intermittent fasting post-pregnancy can help you to regain first-class health.

As studies have shown, intermittent fasting helps to (Varady et al. 200916):

  • Burn fat more effectively
  • Lose weight more easily
  • Improve blood lipids
  • Fight hypertension

Furthermore, women who practiced intermittent fasting could witness mental benefits. As a result, these women experienced more success, pride and control (Watkins et al. 201617).

There Are Better Times to Practice Intermittent Fasting

Pregnancy is not an excellent time for experiments. If you haven’t done intermittent fasting before, you should not start while pregnant.

However, pregnancy does not last forever.

If you want to try intermittent fasting, the best time is after delivery. If your doctor gives the green light, you can lose weight more efficiently and improve your health.

Nevertheless, the female body is not a machine. Whether you feel physically or mentally overwhelmed, before, after, or during pregnancy, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Fasting During Pregnancy FAQ

Kann man in der SS abnehmen?

In der Schwangerschaft stehen gesunde Zunahme und angemessene Nährstoffversorgung des Kindes im Vordergrund und nicht das Abnehmen.

Was tun gegen zu viel Gewichtszunahme in der Schwangerschaft?

Auch in der Schwangerschaft kannst du bewusster essen und natürliche Lebensmittel industriellen Produkten mit Zuckerzusatz vorziehen und damit übermäßige Gewichtszunahme eindämmen.

Warum nimmt man in der SS ab?

Menschliche Körper reagieren individuell auf die Umstellung einer Schwangerschaft. Im Fall eines deutlichen Gewichtsverlusts sollte dennoch mit der Ärztin des Vertrauens Rücksprache gehalten werden.

Welche Diät kann man in der Schwangerschaft machen?

Die Schwangerschaft ist der falsche Zeitpunkt für rigorose Diäten, da die Nährstoffversorgung des Fötus im Vordergrund steht.

Studies

#1-7

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2Gelino S, Hansen M. Autophagy – An Emerging Anti-Aging Mechanism. J Clin Exp Pathol. 2012 Jul 12;Suppl 4. doi: 10.4172/2161-0681.s4-006. PubMed PMID: 23750326; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3674854.

3Felig P, Lynch V. Starvation in human pregnancy: hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, and hyperketonemia. Science. 1970 Nov 27;170(3961):990-2. doi: 10.1126/science.170.3961.990. PubMed PMID: 5529067.

4Glazier JD, Hayes DJL, Hussain S, D’Souza SW, Whitcombe J, Heazell AEP, Ashton N. The effect of Ramadan fasting during pregnancy on perinatal outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018 Oct 25;18(1):421. doi: 10.1186/s12884-018-2048-y. PubMed PMID: 30359228; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6202808.

5Petherick ES, Tuffnell D, Wright J. Experiences and outcomes of maternal Ramadan fasting during pregnancy: results from a sub-cohort of the Born in Bradford birth cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014 Sep 26;14:335. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-14-335. PubMed PMID: 25261183; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4261761.

6Safari K, Piro TJ, Ahmad HM. Perspectives and pregnancy outcomes of maternal Ramadan fasting in the second trimester of pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019 Apr 15;19(1):128. doi: 10.1186/s12884-019-2275-x. PubMed PMID: 30987614; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6466666.

7Felig P, Lynch V. Starvation in human pregnancy: hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, and hyperketonemia. Science. 1970 Nov 27;170(3961):990-2. doi: 10.1126/science.170.3961.990. PubMed PMID: 5529067.

#8-13

8Zauner C, Schneeweiss B, Kranz A, Madl C, Ratheiser K, Kramer L, Roth E, Schneider B, Lenz K. Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6):1511-5. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.6.1511. PubMed PMID: 10837292.

9Mirghani HM, Weerasinghe SD, Smith JR, Ezimokhai M. The effect of intermittent maternal fasting on human fetal breathing movements. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2004 Sep;24(6):635-7. doi: 10.1080/01443610400007844. PubMed PMID: 16147601.

10Petherick ES, Tuffnell D, Wright J. Experiences and outcomes of maternal Ramadan fasting during pregnancy: results from a sub-cohort of the Born in Bradford birth cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014 Sep 26;14:335. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-14-335. PubMed PMID: 25261183; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4261761.

11Garzon S, Cacciato PM, Certelli C, Salvaggio C, Magliarditi M, Rizzo G. Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy: Novel Approaches for an Old Problem. Oman Med J. 2020 Sep;35(5):e166. doi: 10.5001/omj.2020.108. eCollection 2020 Sep. Review. PubMed PMID: 32953141; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7477519.

12Nair PM, Khawale PG. Role of therapeutic fasting in women’s health: An overview. J Midlife Health. 2016 Apr-Jun;7(2):61-4. doi: 10.4103/0976-7800.185325. Review. PubMed PMID: 27499591; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4960941.

13Ali AT. Polycystic ovary syndrome and metabolic syndrome. Ceska Gynekol. 2015 Aug;80(4):279-89. Review. PubMed PMID: 26265416.

#14-17

14Nasiri-Amiri F, Sepidarkish M, Shirvani MA, Habibipour P, Tabari NSM. The effect of exercise on the prevention of gestational diabetes in obese and overweight pregnant women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2019;11:72. doi: 10.1186/s13098-019-0470-6. eCollection 2019. Review. PubMed PMID: 31467594; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6712661.

15Owe KM, Nystad W, Stigum H, Vangen S, Bø K. Exercise during pregnancy and risk of cesarean delivery in nulliparous women: a large population-based cohort study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Dec;215(6):791.e1-791.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.08.014. Epub 2016 Aug 23. PubMed PMID: 27555317.

16Varady KA, Bhutani S, Church EC, Klempel MC. Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Nov;90(5):1138-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28380. Epub 2009 Sep 30. PubMed PMID: 19793855.

17Watkins E, Serpell L. The Psychological Effects of Short-Term Fasting in Healthy Women. Front Nutr. 2016;3:27. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00027. eCollection 2016. PubMed PMID: 27597946; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4992682.

Mag. Stephan Lederer, Bakk., MSc

Stephan is a writer and a true man of science holding multiple diplomas and master degrees among different areas of research. Closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence is his greatest analytical passion – always following the data.

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