How can I have a fruitful Lent during pregnancy?

With Lent less than one week away, it’s crunch time to make a plan for your Lenten journey. But for those who are unable to follow the mandatory practices of fasting and abstinence, it might be more difficult to find a way to make this Lenten season a fruitful one.

Kaitlin sent a tweet to Patrick asking him, “Any advice for Lent during pregnancy? I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding every Lent since I’ve been married and I feel like it hasn’t been as fruitful since I can’t fast or change my diet too much.”

Patrick said that having eleven children, his wife had a similar experience in the earlier years of their marriage. Her solution was to find an alternative sacrifice when she was unable to fast.

pregnant mom eating, not fasting“If because you’re pregnant or breastfeeding you have to maintain a certain kind of diet, I totally understand that, but certainly you would avoid meat during Lent if you can. Now if there’s a medical reason that you must have meat—maybe for iron or protein or something like that—the Church would dispense you from that obligation. But short of something like that, abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, and if you’re not in a position to be able to fast on Good Friday or Ash Wednesday … you would want to substitute that with something else.”

Some ideas Patrick mentioned were:

  • Refrain from watching your favorite television show
  • Do not listen to music
  • Stay off social media
  • Find more ideas here

Patrick cautioned listeners that this “substitution” is not an option for the majority of Catholics. You can’t decide that you’d like to eat meat so you’ll just do something else instead. Unless you have a unique circumstance with a medical reason for not being able to fast or abstain from meat, that requirement still stands.

It’s important to note that fasting is obligatory for those ages 18 to 59, and abstinence from meat is for Catholics ages 14 and up. Here’s what the USCCB says about exceptions to that rule:“Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes.  Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women.  In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.”

You can still have a fruitful Lent even if you’re unable to fast. Put some thought into what would be a worthy sacrifice and commit to practicing it on fasting and abstinence days. Fr. Richard Simon recently suggested to a woman who has a medical condition and is unable to fast that she replace her fasting with prayer. Find extra ways to be prayerful and offer those prayers in place of the normal Lenten sacrifices. You know your own heart and you know what would be a good sacrifice to prepare your heart this Lent.


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Lindsey Kettner serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a wife, mother, and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied journalism and advertising. She writes daily at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.