Fasting, dehydration, and contractions
16 August, 2016
I am currently 22 weeks pregnant and so far have had an uncomplicated pregnancy. Based on my experience with Tisha B'Av today, I have a question about fasting on Yom Kippur.
On the advice of my rabbi, since tisha b'av is nidche, I planned to fast but also to break it if I began to feel ill. I was awakened this morning (not very far into the fast) by cramps that ranged from moderate to severe, which I have not yet experienced in my pregnancy. After they did not go away for a couple of hours, I had a cup of water. They got better shortly afterward. My doctor had warned me about the dangers of preterm labor associated with dehydration, and had told me if I felt any contractions I would have to drink a lot. (She wasn't happy about my not drinking water to begin with). She had also linked contractions to a feeling like premenstrual cramps…but this is my first pregnancy, so I'm not entirely sure what that means, and whether the cramps I felt were an independent issue or could have been related to contractions.
So my question is, if I experience this again on Yom Kippur, how should I proceed? Is it safe and just uncomfortable, or could such cramps actually be a precursor to contractions? I will be 30 weeks pregnant at that point.
Pregnant women are obligated to fast on Yom Kippur unless there is a specific cause for concern that fasting may be dangerous to the mother or fetus.
In general, when a pregnancy is going smoothly, the woman should begin fasting normally. If she starts feeling very ill (beyond the normal weakness/hunger/headaches associated with a fast), or if she begins experiencing contractions, she should start eating/drinking in shiurim. Please see our article on Pregnancy and Yom Kippur for a description of how to measure shiurim.
We recommend discussing your experience on Tisha B'Av with your physician, explaining the seriousness of the fast on Yom Kippur and also the possibility of shiurim. You may find our website and app for medical professionals to be helpful in conveying the halachic issues. You should then get back to us or a rabbinic authority with your doctor's position and reasoning.
Before Yom Kippur, you should make preparations to ease the fast as much as possible. Make sure to hydrate yourself very well for 2-3 days before the fast. Stay in bed all day in an air conditioned room. Your fasting takes precedence not only over your davening in shul, but, if necessary, over your husband's.
Please feel free to get back to us with any further questions.
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