Fasting during Ramadan Increases Risk of Very Preterm Birth among Arabic-Speaking Women

J Nutr. 2019 Oct 1;149(10):1826-1832. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz126.


Background: The impact of fasting on risk of preterm birth during Ramadan is unclear.

Objectives: We evaluated the association between Ramadan fasting during pregnancy and risk of preterm birth for Arab women in Canada.

Methods: We analyzed birth certificates from 3,123,508 deliveries in Quebec, Canada, from 1981 to 2017. We identified 78,109 births of Arabic-speaking women and determined if Ramadan occurred during any trimester of pregnancy. We calculated rates of extreme (22-27 wk), very (28-31 wk), and late (32-36 wk) preterm birth and estimated RRs and 95% CIs for the association of Ramadan fasting with risk of preterm birth by pregnancy trimester, using log-binomial regression models adjusted for maternal characteristics.

Results: Arabic speakers had an overall preterm birth rate of 5.53 per 100 births, but rates varied with timing of Ramadan. Among Arabic speakers, fasting during Ramadan between weeks 15-21 of the second trimester was associated with 1.33 times the risk of very preterm birth relative to no fasting (95% CI: 1.06, 1.68). Between weeks 22 and 27 of the second trimester, fasting during Ramadan was associated with 1.53 times the risk of very preterm birth (95% CI: 1.21, 1.93). Ramadan fasting was not associated with extreme or late preterm birth regardless of the trimester of pregnancy.

Conclusions: In this study of 78,109 births to Arabic-speaking women in Quebec, Ramadan fasting during the second pregnancy trimester was associated with the risk of very preterm birth. Optimal prenatal education about nutritional needs in the second trimester of pregnancy is recommended.

Keywords: Arabs; fasting; immigrants; language; premature birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arabs*
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Islam*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Premature Birth*
  • Quebec