When you are pregnant there is suddenly a whole list of foods and drinks that are newly off limits for various reasons. Everything from cheese to shellfish might be something to avoid. Expecting moms just want to do what is best for their baby so the safest policy is just to avoid things you aren’t sure about. Alcohol is one everyone knows is not great in pregnant, but can you drink alcohol free beer when pregnant?
Can you drink alcohol free beer while pregnant?
The official advice is there is no known safe level of alcohol in pregnancy and as such, a pregnant mom should avoid all drinks with alcohol. That advice might mean avoiding <0.05% alcohol free beer as well. However, fruit juices will have much more alcohol than alcohol free beer and there is no published concerns about their alcohol load in pregnancy.
Alcohol free giants Heineken even state “This amount has no impact on the body and is fully fine in view of driving and pregnancy” so they are happy to recommend Heineken 0.0 to pregnant moms.
We will explore why you should definitely avoid alcohol when pregnant, what it can do to your baby and what all the guidelines say. After that we will examine just how much alcohol is in an alcohol free beer and what this is in practical terms compared to some other foods and drinks you will be consuming when pregnant. I think you will be very surprised.
Why should you avoid alcohol during pregnancy?
There are some surprising foods or drinks that you might not know you need to avoid when pregnant but there isn’t going to be many expecting moms who won’t know they should avoid or severely limit their alcohol intake. They just might not know why they need to do it.
Alcohol can affect pregnancy in a number of ways.
- increased risk of miscarriage
- foetal growth restriction
- foetal brain underdevelopment
- increased risk of preterm labour
- increased risk of stillbirth
- can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- baby can be more prone to infections
Clearly this list of complications is not want you would want and if they can be avoided by use stopping drinking alcohol, many moms do just that.
One of the scarier sounding conditions on that list is fatal alcohol spectrum disorder, what exactly is that?
What is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome?
If a mother drinks a lot of alcohol during pregnancy then FASD or FAS can develop. FAS is more severe than FASD. Babies affected by FASD can have issues with behaviour, learning, physical or emotional disabilities. The more alcohol that is drank then the more severe the issues that can last a life time. Babies with FAS have an even more severe physical and mental disability.
There is no definite level of alcohol where FASD or FAS develops, so by far the safest advice has always been to just avoid alcohol.
What do the experts say, around the world, about alcohol in pregnancy?
What are the current guidelines re alcohol in pregnancy?
Unsurprisingly a lot of the worldwide guidance is that no level of alcohol is considered safe despite the recognition that low levels of alcohol will likely cause no issues. The safest option is alway to avoid alcohol.
Below is the specific advice from Obstetric bodies in USA, UK and Australia. You will notice that the guidelines are basically identical. The world is in unison.
|Regional advisor||Specific advice||Additional comments|
|RCOG (UK)||There is no “safe” level of alcohol||low risk of harm with small amounts of alcohol|
|Department of Health (Australia)||There is no “safe” level of alcohol||low risk of harm with small amounts of alcohol|
|ACOG (USA)||There is no “safe” level of alcohol||Serious harm unlikely if drinking before pregnancy discovered|
So they do have some caveats and wiggle room.
The overwhelming message and catch all to everyone is to just avoid all alcohol in pregnancy. This is easy messaging, taking no working out and is universally understood. However they do all go on to state that drinking very small amount of alcohol would have a very low risk of harm to baby. “Low” is not the same as “no” tho i would say
How much alcohol is in alcohol free beer?
Alcohol free beer is still called beer and it has 0.0% or less than 0.05% of alcohol by volume on the bottle, so just how much alcohol is in alcohol beer.
You probably only see an alcohol percentage on a food or drink if there is alcohol in it so we are programmed to think if a product displays it then there must be alcohol.
There are lots of different labelling and names in the non alcoholic beer world. Ive written a full article on what all the names mean and how to navigate your way around it, you can read it here.
A non alcoholic beer has an ABV of 0.5% or less.
An alcohol free beer will have an ABV of less than 0.05%.
To get a clearer idea of just how low <0.05% ABV actually is, you can look at some common foods and drinks that contain similar amounts of alcohol. Fruit juices have more alcohol by volume than alcohol free beer and even most breads do!
How much alcohol is in common food stuffs?
The only time you see how much alcohol is in a drink or food is when it is in relation to alcoholic beverages or their non alcoholic equivalent.
A standard alcoholic beer (according to the USDA) has 5% ABV whereas an alcohol free beer has not more than 0.05%. You can easily see one has far less than to other but it would also be easy to assume that 0.05% is still more than in everything else you eat and drink so still relatively high in alcohol.
The surprising truth is, many foods and drinks contain alcohol as a by product of fermentation and in similar if not higher concentrations to non alcoholic beer!
Below is a selected list of just some fermented foods with surprising amounts of alcohol.
|Food or Drink||Alcohol by volume content %|
|Alcohol free beer||<0.05%|
I can not find any specific advice from any Obstetric college or government agency, to limit the amount of bread or fruit juice a pregnant mom can eat and drink based on the alcohol they contain. It is a trace amount and in a small quantity.
It would be hard to argue that one can of alcohol free beer puts your baby at higher risk than 1/0th of a glass of orange juice or a bit of a banana.
You can read more about the surprising hidden alcohol in your foods and drinks here
Can you drink alcohol free beer when pregnant?
With the global recommendations being that no amount of alcohol is safe in pregnancy, the specific advice for non alcoholic beer will be to avoid it if possible. However, alcohol free beer contains 1/10th the alcohol concentrations of orange juice and there are no guidelines or articles advising pregnant women to avoid drinking orange juice.
The guidelines are meant to be simple and catch all. They probably think if they start sub categorising into alcohol free, non alcoholic, low alcohol, alcoholic etc then the message gets blurred. I can see why it is easier to just tell pregnant moms to avoid anything with “alcohol” in the title even if it saying there is none!
If you have any specific concerns about the question, “can i drink alcohol free beer when pregnant”, I would speak to your doctor but the many i have spoken to would not be concerned drinking alcohol free beer when pregnant.
Can you drink non alcoholic beer while pregnant?
The official advice is there is no known safe level of alcohol in pregnancy and as such, a pregnant mom should avoid all drinks with alcohol. That would mean avoiding 0.5% non alcoholic beer as well. However, fruit juices can have more alcohol than non alcoholic beer and there is no published concerns about their alcohol load in pregnancy.