Thinking about replacing beer with non-alcoholic beer during pregnancy? Think again.
While non-alcoholic beer looks enticing to the sober mom-to-be, it’s generally recommended against. That’s because even drinks labeled alcohol-free may contain low amounts of alcohol. Since you should be avoiding it altogether, even small amounts of alcohol may pose a risk.
In this article, we’ll explain why non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beer and wine should be avoided while expecting. Keep reading to learn what other pregnancy non-alcoholic drinks are safe.
What is Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Non-alcoholic beer is beer with little to no alcohol. It tastes similar to beer but doesn’t give you the effects of drinking (ex. getting drunk). Non-alcoholic beer is often a good choice for sober people or designated drivers.
It’s important to know that every brand of non-alcoholic beer is different. Some beer is alcohol-free, claiming to contain absolutely no alcohol. Other brands are low-alcohol, containing up to 0.5% alcohol.
Both non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beers are made by removing the alcohol. This is different than some mocktail drinks, which are naturally and truly 100% alcohol-free.
Pregnancy & Non-Alcoholic Beer: Is it Safe?
Many people assume non-alcoholic beer is pregnancy-safe. However, to be safe, you should steer clear of all non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beer brands. That’s because, despite what a label claims, it’s hard to tell how much alcohol exactly is in your drink.
There’s two main categories of alcoholic beer, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- Non-alcoholic beer: Should contain no more than 0.5% alcohol. The alcohol level will be labeled on the beer.
- Alcohol-free beer: Should have no detectable levels of alcohol. These are labeled as 0.0%.
You’re probably thinking that you’ll safely stick to the alcohol-free beer. But here’s the problem: It might not actually be alcohol-free. And even small amounts of alcohol may impact your pregnancy. Research has shown that the labeling doesn’t always reflect what’s in the bottle. We’ll explain more in the next section.
Unreliable Labeling of Pregnancy Non-Alcoholic Beer
Non-alcoholic beers are becoming more popular. According to an analysis prediction, the low and no-alcohol drinks market will increase by 31% by 2024. That rise is supported by the sober curious movement, a trend toward alcohol-free lifestyles. Although you’ll see more non-alcoholic products on shelves, don’t let them tempt you.
A 2010 study looked at 45 drinks labeled “no or low alcohol.” Researchers discovered a few surprises:
- Almost 30% contained more alcohol than labeled
- 6 drinks contained alcohol above the legal labeling limit (0.5%)
- 6 drinks labeled as alcohol-free contained up to 1.8% alcohol
Researchers called these results “very concerning.” They concluded that pregnant women looking to replace alcohol may be misled by labels. In turn, they could be accidentally exposing themselves to ethanol.
To summarize, when it comes to pregnancy non-alcoholic beer, you can’t trust what the label says. Even when labeled alcohol-free, it’s safer to assume that it might contain alcohol and steer clear.
Pregnancy & Non-Alcoholic Wine: Is it Safe?
Now that non-alcoholic beer is crossed off the list, what about pregnancy non-alcoholic wine?
Unfortunately, pregnancy and non-alcoholic wine also don’t mix. Wine labeled as non-alcoholic or alcohol-free may also contain more wine than stated.
Why do companies mislabel non-alcoholic beverages? It’s likely an unintentional mistake caused by the way alcohol ferments. One study theorized that the degradation of fruit may contribute to higher-than-labeled levels. When a manufacturer doesn’t monitor the degradation process, the alcohol level can rise above the limit expected.
Low Alcohol Amounts Should Be Avoided Too
Some people think that low amounts of alcohol—such as that found in pregnancy non-alcoholic beer—are okay while expecting. However, there’s no known amount of alcohol that’s safe during pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends not consuming any alcohol while pregnant.
The biggest reason is that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading cause of birth defects. Avoiding alcohol altogether means you won’t put your baby at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD includes an array of complications, like:
- Facial abnormalities
- Low body weight
- Sleep problems as a baby
- Sucking problems as a baby
- Hyperactive behavior
- Attention difficulties
- Poor memory
- Learning disabilities
- Speech delays
- Poor judgment
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems
Drinking alcohol in the first 3 months of pregnancy can cause facial abnormalities. Drinking alcohol at any time while expecting can lead to growth and central nervous system complications. Since your baby’s brain develops throughout your journey, ethanol exposure can impact her during all trimesters.
Something else to consider: Although it’s unlikely, it’s still possible to get intoxicated from non-alcoholic beverages. Even alcohol-free beers may have an alcohol content of almost 2%. If you drink too many, you could still get a buzz off of pregnancy non-alcoholic beer or other “no-alcohol” drinks.
Since alcohol-related complications are completely preventable, why take the chance with pregnancy non-alcoholic beer or wine? With that being said, if you’ve unknowingly had a non-alcoholic beer or two, you’re most likely fine. Just be sure to avoid it next time.
Pregnancy Non-Alcoholic Drink Alternatives
It’s safest to avoid both non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beer during pregnancy. So what can you have instead of a beer, glass of wine, or cocktail?
The safest option for pregnancy non-alcoholic drinks are mocktails. While non-alcoholic beer is made by removing the alcohol (and alcohol still remains), mocktails are naturally 100% alcohol-free.
The fun thing about mocktails is that the options are endless. You can follow a recipe or create your own. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you’d like. If you’re looking to replicate a certain cocktail you love, Google a recipe for the alcohol-free version. You might be surprised at how many delicious-tasting mocktail recipes exist.
If you miss drinking, try this: Next time you’re hosting guests, buy a variety of juices and sodas and arrange a DIY mocktail table. Encourage guests to have fun creating their own signature pregnancy mocktail! (This is also a fun idea for children too)
Basic Customizable Mocktail Recipe
Make an easy, quick mocktail with whatever you have in your fridge. Here’s a basic recipe to get you started. Have fun creating different combinations until you find your go-to!
- Light-colored soda (Sprite, club soda, sparkling water)
- Fruit (fresh or frozen)
- Fill a glass with ice.
- Add juice until the glass is 3/4 full.
- Top with soda.
- Garnish with fruit (stir berries into glass or place citrus slices on the rim)
Quit Drinking During Pregnancy
If you’re trying to quit drinking, non-alcoholic beer may look like an appealing way to cut back without completely quitting. However, there’s no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. And since non-alcoholic beers still contain some alcohol, they should be avoided completely.
If you’re having trouble quitting drinking, recognize that you’re not alone. Drinking is ingrained in many cultures and it can be tough to hold back while everyone else is having a cold one. After all, alcohol is the most socially accepted drug. Instead of feeling ashamed of your drinking cravings, realize that help is available. Here are a few options:
- Talk to your doctor or community health center about local resources
- Find a therapist to help you change your habits
- Join a local alcohol anonymous (A.A.)
Lifestyle changes can also make it easier to quit drinking. Consider these tips:
- Avoid places that trigger alcohol cravings (places where alcohol is served, parties, etc.)
- When going to events with alcohol, preplan or bring non-alcoholic options
- Influence is everything. Ask your partner if they’ll stop drinking too. If not, ask them not to drink around you.
- Change up your routine. If you usually have a beer when you get home from work, choose another activity instead.
- Normalize sobriety by engaging in sobriety media. Follow sobriety social media accounts, read sobriety books, listen to sobriety podcasts, etc.
Reaching out for help to quit drinking is the best thing you can do as a mother-to-be. You’ll eliminate your baby’s risk for alcohol-related complications while learning healthier coping mechanisms.
Summary: Pregnancy Non-Alcoholic Beer
When you quit drinking for your pregnancy, you might turn to non-alcoholic beer. While many mothers-to-be assume it’s safe, it may also put your baby at risk for alcohol-related problems.
Both non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beer contain low amounts of alcohol. Unfortunately, bottles often contain more than what’s labeled, and there’s no way to tell. Since there’s no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, it’s best to avoid non-alcoholic drinks altogether.
If you’re craving a drink, make a mocktail instead. Find a recipe you like or create your own signature mocktail. When you use naturally alcohol-free ingredients, you completely eliminate the risk of alcohol.
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