Does a Pregnant Woman Fast?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I am five months pregnant and was told that I definitely don't have to fast on Yom Kippur. But then someone told me that I definitely do. So what is it? Do I fast or not?
As a mother to be, you want the best for your baby. You want to do anything possible to give your child everything he or she needs for the future. So if you can, you should at least try to fast.
This is what Jewish mothers have been doing for thousands of years. They withhold food from their unborn babies for one day, and then spend the rest of their life over-feeding them to make up for it.
Of course, if you have a specific medical condition or there are any complications with your pregnancy, you may be forbidden to fast, and a doctor and a rabbi should be consulted. But in normal circumstances, pregnancy is not a medical condition, it is a natural state, and fasting once will have no negative effect on you or the baby whatsoever. In fact, the opposite may be true.
The Talmud tells of a pregnant woman who smelt food on Yom Kippur and craved to eat it. They reminded her that it was a fast day, and she refrained. The child she bore grew to become the saintly leader Rabbi Yochanan. His greatness was partly credited to his mother's fasting even when it was not easy.
You have to be practical. Drink a lot of fluids beforehand, and rest on the day itself. If staying home in bed will make it easier, then that's what you should do. Fasting is more important than going to shul. And watch yourself as you fast. If you feel faint or lightheaded or anything unusual, you may need to break the fast. Don't be overly strict. But don't dismiss the fast entirely. Plan to complete the fast, and see how you go.
May you have an easy fast, an easy birth, and a child who will appreciate that it's worth going through momentary discomfort to uphold our eternal beliefs.
Note: The above applies to a nursing woman as well. The specific laws pertaining to a woman close to her due date, in labor or immediately after childbirth vary. A competent rabbi should be consulted in all cases.