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.