Can You Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer While Pregnant?

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

Pregnant woman and her friends at a barbecue party, toasting with drinks.

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No doubt, many 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 options 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 have concluded that light drinking during early pregnancy doesn't have negative effects. But there's a vague line between "light" drinking and "moderate" drinking, and there are simply no guidelines saying how much alcohol is OK. As a result, 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.

Does Non-Alcoholic Beer Have 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% 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 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, Can I Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer During Pregnancy?

Only you and your health care provider 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 alcohol-free mocktails or beers labeled "alcohol-free," which by law, must contain no traceable alcohol (triple-check the label to make sure it says 0.0% alcohol volume).

If you're looking forward to a drink after pregnancy, keep in mind that nine 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, a lot. Formula-feeding parents can safely indulge and the ACOG does note that having an alcoholic drink occasionally while breastfeeding or chestfeeding is safe as well, as long as you wait about two hours before feeding your baby.

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

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  1. Association between maternal alcohol consumption in early pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2013.

  2. Alcohol content in declared non-to low alcoholic beverages: implications to pregnancy. The Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2010.

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