Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Safe During Pregnancy?

Did you know non-alcoholic beer can still contain 0.5% alcohol by volume? Find out if this trace amount can affect fetal development.

No doubt, people love the satisfying taste of an ice-cold pint. Pregnant beer aficionados might try substituting with non-alcoholic versions, which are usually made by removing the alcohol from normal beer. But these can actually contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume, according to Marra Francis, M.D., a gynecologist practicing in San Antonio, and the former chair of the OB-GYN department at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Wondering if the trace amounts of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer can harm your unborn baby? Thanks to limited research, there's actually no evidence to suggest whether it does or doesn't. However, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says that no amount of alcohol during pregnancy is considered safe, since it's linked to behavioral and learning difficulties, birth defects, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and other risks.

Some studies, such as one published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, have concluded that light drinking during pregnancy doesn't have negative effects. But there's a vague line between "light" drinking and "moderate" drinking, and there's simply no guidelines saying how much alcohol is OK. Most experts stick by the rule that no amount of alcohol should be considered safe while expecting.

Here are all the facts on drinking non-alcoholic beer during pregnancy.

Midsection Of Pregnant Woman Pouring Beer
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Yes, Non-Alcoholic Beer Contains Alcohol

Non-alcoholic beer tastes quite similar to the normal versions, making it a go-to choice for those abstaining from liquor. Many options claim to contain 0% alcohol volume, but according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "non-alcoholic" beer can legally contain up to 0.5 percent alcohol.

While 0.5% alcohol by volume seems like an inconsequential amount, unfortunately, you can't always trust the label, because there is a chance there is actually more alcohol than advertised. For instance, a 2010 study, published in The Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, studied 45 beverages claiming to have no or low alcohol content. Through gas chromatography, researchers found that 29% of the beverages "contained ethanol levels higher than the declared concentration on their label," according to the study. Six beverages marketed as having 0% alcohol actually had more than 1% ethanol—and some even had up to 1.8%.

So, Should I Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer During Pregnancy?

Only you and your doctor can decide whether it's safe for you to drink non-alcoholic beer during pregnancy. When it comes to your baby's health, though, it's always better to be safe than sorry. To be on the safe side, you might want to stick with liquor-free mocktails or beers labeled "alcohol-free," which by law, must contain no traceable alcohol by law (triple-check the label to make sure it says 0.0 percent alcohol volume).

If you're looking forward to a drink after pregnancy, keep in mind that 9 months is a fairly short amount of time to give up drinking, but we know it's hard to keep sacrificing when you're already sacrificing, well, everything. Formula-feeding parents can safely indulge and the ACOG does note that having an alcoholic drink occasionally while breastfeeding is safe as well, as long as you wait about 2 hours before feeding your baby.

And if a no-booze lifestyle even after baby is right for you, know you're in good company: more parents are choosing to go alcohol-free for their health and lifestyle, so pass the sparkling water and call it a party!

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