What you should know about fasting on Karva Chauth during pregnancy

What you should know about fasting on Karva Chauth during pregnancy

On the eve of Karva Chauth, most of you will be planning what you should eat at 4 am. Keeping things ready so that you won’t have to waste too much time cooking because your mothers-in-law will be at your throats if you eat even a grain of rice in pre-dawn light. At a regular time, I’d tell you that your decision to fast or not is your own, and give you tips on what to eat before and after your fast so you don’t lose out on nutrition. When you’re carrying another person in your uterus, however, your body doesn’t react in the same way as it would if you deprive it of solids and liquids entirely for about 15 hours. This time, you’ll have to change some things around.

28-year-old Sonam Tiwari, a journalist at a Hindi newspaper in Lucknow, is six months pregnant. Although her husband tried to persuade her not to observe the fast this time, she convinced him that it was necessary for a suhagan - a sumangali - not to skip it. Letting go of it even once, she says, means that she’ll never be able to take it up again.

Sonam Tiwari
Sonam Tiwari, 28, six months pregnant

But she realises that she has to keep her baby in consideration, so she’s agreed to make some concessions. “I have decided to eat fruits because I have to take of my baby,” she admits. “But I will not drink water, since this is supposed to be a nirjala fast.” It seems that her husband, too, will do as she does in order to keep her company. He even consulted their doctor to make sure that she won’t harm herself or her baby in her insistence to keep to tradition.

That’s a wise decision, believes Dr Shanthi M P, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who practices in Bangalore. She says that every woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy and fasts. This is why the most appropriate course of action is to speak to your doctor if you’re putting your body through an unusual or strenuous activity. However, she’s also very emphatic that following your falling back on your own religious dogma when you could be putting your baby in peril is quite selfish of an expectant mother.

Dr Shanthi M P
Dr Shanthi M P, OB/GYN, Bangalore

“Take responsibility for you baby,” she says, cuttingly. “It’s in a state of total surrender towards you; it’s completely helpless. If you give it pain, it can do nothing to stop it. Think about it - if someone tied you up and tortured you and you could do nothing about it, would you want to put up with it?”

But most pregnant are adamant about relying on custom. It isn’t just Sonam who takes a firm stand on continuing with her yearly fast. Smriti Mishra, a 29-year-old chartered accountant in Bangalore, is eight months pregnant and won’t even consider the possibility of missing the ritual. “Everyone in my family told me to skip it this year, but I can’t. Instead, I will drink water, juices and eat fruits. I only won’t consume daals and grains like rice and wheat, just as I do on other fast days.”

Smriti Mishra
Smriti Mishra, 29, before her pregnancy

Sonam’s doctor told her that if she drinks fluids like fruit juice, buttermilk and milk, she can abstain from water. Dr Shanthi won’t hear of such a thing, though. The three points that she won’t budge from are:

  1. Consume as much sugar as your body demands:

You might think that it’s enough to drink a glass of buttermilk every few hours. But you might need more. If you feel like you want a fruit or some juice immediately at any point in the day, don’t stop yourself from drinking or eating it. Your baby needs the sugar, and it’s asking for it. If you stop yourself in the name of a fast, you’ll leave it in pain. “Listen to your body with authenticity,” demands Dr Shanthi. “Give your baby buttermilk, milk, juices, any amount to keep it comfortable.”

  1. It’s different for different trimesters

Just as each pregnancy is different, each trimester is also different in some manner or the other. If you’re in your first trimester, especially in the first two months of your pregnancy, you have to keep drinking water to keep your body hydrated. In your second trimester and in the beginning of your third, you can relax a little, but it’s important not to neglect your body’s demands even then.

  1. It’s okay to let go of solids if you consume enough liquids

Since the fast lasts only for the duration of a day, it’s alright, says the doctor, if you consume solid foods in the morning before sunrise and have a good dinner. Consuming enough liquids all day, though, is the key here and everywhere else.

“No god will be happy if you torture yourself or your baby,” she concludes. “Why will any deity demand pain out of you?”