Wednesday, September 09, 2009

To Fast or Not To Fast

When Sisil was pregnant with Lintar, we decided that she skipped fasting during Ramadan. Our common sense says that it'd be healthier for the baby if the mother doesn't fast --and pay the financial compensation to the poor instead. But apparently, as seen from our friends' wall status at Facebook, our thinking differs from many who prefer to keep fasting during pregnancy.

Recently I come across two papers on pregnancy and subsequent offspring's health status. One is from Douglas Almond on the long term impact of in utero 1918 influenza pandemic in the US (JPE, 2006, vol. 114. no. 4); the other is from Reyn Van Ewijk (LSE's CEP working paper, 2009) on the long term health impact on the next generation whose mothers were fasting during pregnancy.

It seems that our common sense is vindicated. Van Ewijk writes:
Using Indonesian cross-sectional data, I show that people who were exposed to Ramadan fasting during their mother’s pregnancy have a poorer general health and are sick more often than people who were not exposed. This effect is especially pronounced among older people, who, when exposed, also report health problems more often that are indicative of coronary heart problems and type 2 diabetes. The exposed are a bit smaller in body size and weigh less.
We are aware that religious interpretation is a very personal affair, yet we still keep wondering what is the selfish true reason for insisting on fasting during pregnancy despite the available exemption option.


  1. it could be genetic: people whose parents *think* like you are just healthier than others -- nothing to do with the direct effect from fasting itself.

  2. actually my obgyn said it's ok for me to fast during all of my pregnancy. Three obgyn and three pregnancies, and they're not a religious freak. Fasting once in early semester and other in my late semester, have no prob at all. In fact, especially in the early semester, the mabuk-mual is vanished. But yes, fasting during pregnancies maybe not for everyone