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Should a pregnant woman fast on Yom Kippur?

Should a pregnant woman fast on Yom Kippur?

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Question:

I am currently pregnant and I suffer from low blood pressure. I get terrible tension headaches and I can't function at all if I don't eat or drink a morning coffee. Am I allowed to take some water or a little coffee this Yom Kippur?

Answer:

A person who is seriously ill, or may become seriously ill by fasting, is not permitted to fast on Yom Kippur.1

Although the assessment of doctors normally suffices to determine whether or not one should eat,2 in the case of a pregnant woman, the matter is not so clear. Why? Because in recent year, numerous obstetricians routinely advise their pregnant patients not to fast on any fast day – ever – including Yom Kippur.3 This is true even when such pregnancies are completely normal, and the woman has had no previous complications with her pregnancies, and none with her current pregnancy.

Such an approach does not dovetail with the Jewish view. While recognizing the sensitive condition of a pregnant woman, Torah law does not regard observing a single fast as posing a health danger to a normal, healthy, pregnant woman. As such, since Yom Kippur is a biblically established fast-day, pregnant women do not receive a blanket exemption.4

But should a doctor feel that fasting for a particular woman may harm either her or her unborn child, especially if there is a history of miscarriages, she should not fast. However, she should only eat or drink small quantities intermittently, as directed by her rabbi.

In your particular situation, it is important to speak with your own, local, Orthodox rabbi, who will want to find out more information about your past pregnancies. Your rabbi may also want to speak with your doctor, to better understand the seriousness of your infirmity.

Keep in mind, too, that it is preferable to stay home, in bed, if need be, and to fast, rather than to break one's fast, in order to have the strength to go to synagogue.

May G‑d bless you with an easy and normal pregnancy, and with a good and sweet year!

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for Chabad.org.

Footnotes
1.

Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 618:1.

2.

In fact, the assessment of the individual him/herself is sufficient under certain circumstances.

3.

See "Contemporary Halakhic Problems," vol. 4, by Rabbi J. David Bleich, p. 371.

4.

Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 617:1.

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger, first content editor for KabbalaOnline.org, is the translator and editor of several important chassidic texts. He also serves as the Jewish chaplain for York Central Hospital, and for numerous Federal prisons. Rabbi Danzinger currently resides in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Yehudis, and their children.
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Andy Vermont August 19, 2015

Giving up coffee during a fast "Coffee headaches" are caused by suddenly giving up caffeine. You can avoid them by gradually reducing your coffee consumption before the fast. But you must start a while in advance and reduce your coffee intake very gradually — no faster than 1/2 cup each day. If you currently drink 4 cups a day, start 8 days before the fast. For two days, drink only 3 cups each day; for the next two days, drink only 2 cups; then 1 cup; for the last two days only 1/2 cup. Reply

Anna Abbotsford, B.C. July 18, 2015

Fasting Pregnant or sick stomach If a woman is suffering morning sickness I have a suggestion of something she can do prior to the fast. This would also work for someone with stomach problems. I found out this gem from a older native woman.

small raw potato
fine grating grater
fine strainer

grate potato
squeeze out the liquid... with your hand if you wish
sip... 1 tsp to 2T

One mother-to-be, who was throwing up all day, took two tablespoons worth.
She attended a wedding the next day and felt great... aaall day! Reply

jewishmom new york, ny/usa September 27, 2009

Need advice for Yom Kippur Hello. I'm distressed about fasting on Yom Kippur. I go through this each year, and it's worse each year. I routinely suffer from frequent and severe migraines which are often triggered or made worse when I don't eat. My migraines can last from 3-12 days no matter what I do. I've seen many doctors and tried many medications to no avail. I also have a small child to care for and keep up with, so back to my point/question. Is there anything else I can do instead of fasting that would be equally sacrificial and which won't leave me incapacitated as my inevitable migraines do? I gtruly want and need to do something, but I just don't know what. I also know I shouldn't be on the computer tonight (and I doubt anyone else will be either), but I really need help. I want to atone, and I want to set a good example for my son. My husband fasts, and I don't want my son to think I don't respect my religion or my G-d as my husband does. Thanks for any help. And have an easy fast! Reply

Aviva October 9, 2007

You're Right Dear Rabbi Danzinger,

You are right. I fasted this past Yom Kippur after consulting with my Orthodox rabbi. He said it was more important to fast the entire time from my bed rather than go to shul. I managed to appear in shul each day and I managed to daven for an hour and a half at home. I felt very happy with his advice and my dedication, even though it was only a fraction of what it would have been had I been able to go to shul.
Thank you. Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia, PA via jewishphilly.com October 2, 2007

thank you I am in early pregnancy and I choose to fast this Yom Kippur. I was so happy with my decision. I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do - though my doctor advised against it and I am anemic as well. I did follow my rabbi's guidelines and ended up having a total of three small sips of water and one of my daughter's chewable vitamins. (this really helped.) I also napped a lot!
Thank you for your advice. Reply

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