Is Intermittent Fasting Safe During Pregnancy? Here's What Experts Want You To Know
With intermittent fasting sweeping the health realm, it's definitely a lifestyle I've tried and enjoy. With alternating periods of eating and fasting, this method simply requires you to take a chunk out of your day to fast –for example, restricting your eating time to 8 hours during the day in my case. If you're a pretty strict faster who's recently found out you're expecting, there's probably some red flags going off in your mind. You might wonder: Is intermittent fasting safe when you're pregnant? And the answer, although not too surprising, does require you to take some new things into consideration.
Because intermittent fasting (IF) creates a smaller window to eat within (and for me that means skipping breakfast and refraining from late night snacks after dinner), IF is believed to reset digestion and help you lose weight while preventing you from restrictions on what to eat. But cardiologist and nutrition specialist Dr. Luiza Petre told Popsugar that although an intermittent fasting diet "optimizes energy metabolism and boosts cellular protection," weight loss is not something you want when you're pregnant. This is because the risks far outweigh the any potential benefits.
Instead, it's more important healthy foods are the focus of a your diet and not weighing less, which makes IF an iffy option. Petre also shared that research isn't conclusive on fasting during pregnancy. And if you weren't already convinced, that in and of itself is a pretty solid reason for avoiding IF during pregnancy.
Additionally, long periods between meals or snacks for moms-to-be are concerning on quite a few levels. The American Journal of Epidemiology shared that health care providers generally recommend pregnant women “eat small to moderate-sized meals at regular intervals, and eat nutritious snacks” to meet increased nutritional needs. Especially if you're already experiencing morning sickness, in my experience, the quickest way to curb your nausea is to eat a light snack or a breakfast that's easy on your stomach.
With IF during pregnancy, restrictions on when you can eat are likely not going to be conducive to how you feel, staying healthy, and providing consistent nutrition for yourself and your growing baby. Ultimately, the key throughout pregnancy is to listen to your body. Chances are you're going to be hungry and need nutrients more than 8 hours out of every day.
There are, however, quite a few different types of intermittent fasting (and some of which are less strict than others). Bustle shared that there are roughly five primary types of IF, with a 16/8 diet being the most supported and utilized (16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating). Although that would allow you to eat within a pretty normal time frame (11 am to 7 pm or noon to 8 pm), it still limits your intake quite a bit. Additionally, other methods limit calorie intake even more, suggesting a person fast for a full day once a week. And while those methods can stress your body, pregnant or not, you might wonder if the less harsh methods are OK. But even the most leniant and popular 16/8 method is discouraged against if you're expecting.
If you're used to a lifestyle of IF, it's a good idea to shift your focus away from when you can eat and instead on what to eat. Don't restrict yourself on when you can eat or grab a healthy snack throughout the day or evening. And consider some of the best foods to eat during pregnancy, like avocado, broccoli, berries, whole grains, lean meats, and nuts. Setting your sights on a new, healthy lifestyle goal during your pregnancy should help you feel healthy and strong throughout. Then, once you have your bundle of joy and get into a comfortable routine, talk to your doctor about IF options moving forward if you're still wanting to pursue it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.