Fasting, pregnancy, & childbirth
13 July, 2004
I am 7 1/2 months pregnant now. By the time it's TIsha B'Av I will be 8 months pregnant. Is it ok for me to fast? Or should I only try half a day?
And, I am due 5 days before Yom Kippur, again, what should I do about fasting, and if the baby is born before that, I do plan on breast feeding, what do I do about fasting in that situation?
Pregnant women should fast on Tisha B'av and Yom Kippur. The halacha is far more stringent on Yom Kippur (a biblically mandated fast with severe punishment attached) than on Tisha Bav (a fast instituted by rabbinic decree). You should discuss with your physician if there is anything in your pregnancy that makes you more high risk, and if so ask a specific question of a rabbi. Otherwise, you should start the fast assuming that you will complete it. If you are feeling unwell, spend the day in bed! Don't go to shul, even though it's Yom Kippur. Getting through the fast safely is more important.
If you feel unwell, you should also consult a rabbi about continuing the fast. If he feels that your situation is serious enough to allow you not to fast, on Yom Kippur he will likely direct you to eat and drink small amounts at given intervals (shiurim) rather than eating normally. In similar circumstances on Tisha Bav, one who is permitted to break the fast may eat and drink normally (but not for enjoyment).
A woman in labor does not fast on Yom Kippur from the time she becomes niddah. (There is room to permit eating earlier in labor if she is especially frightened or distraught.) Women during the three days after childbirth also do not fast on Yom Kippur. Between 4-7 days postpartum it is likely that they should not fast, but a specific question should be asked at that point if it is relevant. (There are additional leniencies on Tisha B'Av – a specific question should be asked if this is relevant.)
Breastfeeding women also fast on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av. This should not present a problem as long as the mother and baby are healthy and nursing is going well. The mother should drink a lot before and after the fast and plan to rest and nurse her baby a lot the day after the fast. On the fast she should minimize her activities (not even going to synagogue unless she feels wonderful). If there are any health issues for either mother or baby, or if their have been any problems with nursing, a specific question should be asked of a rabbi.
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