Understandably, pregnant mothers want to do everything possible to protect and nurture their unborn child. There are many food and beverage rule to try and follow. One of these that everyone knows is that you should trying avoid alcohol. Im going to take a look at if alcohol free drinks are safe in pregnancy and why you should avoid alcohol when pregnant
In general, alcohol free drinks are safe in pregnancy. They have had their alcohol removed to a level below 0.05% alcohol by volume (ABV) meaning it is not physiologically active. If you compare that to a glass of fresh orange juice has an ABV of 0.5%.
You can drink about 225 glasses (5 fl oz or 150ml) of alcohol free wine before it counts as 1 US Standard Drink.
In this blog i’ll look at why alcohol is bad in pregnancy, what the current guidelines are in terms of consuming alcohol and compare alcohol free products to other food stuffs pregnant mothers wouldn’t flinch at eating or drinking. Lastly I will explain how to read the label and why its important in the alcohol free market.
Why is alcohol bad in pregnancy
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 there are a lot of affects alcohol can have on the mother and unborn baby. These problems can get worse the more alcohol the mother consumes. The safest approach is to avoid alcohol altogether. Where alcohol free products have a problem it is most with PR. They are alcohol free versions of alcoholic drinks so despite stating they contain no alcohol, they still have “alcohol” on the label and are closely associated with alcoholic drinks.
For a follow up blog on alcohol free drinks in breastfeeding have a look here. The topics are usually interlinked as you can guess!
What is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome?
If the 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.
What are the current guidelines?
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.
|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|
How much alcohol is there in an alcohol free drink?
|Standard drink limit||Alcohol free beer limit||Alcohol free wine limit||Alcohol free spirit limit|
|Over 21 Driver||4||400||960||3200|
As an illustration of just how alcohol free a <0.05% ABV drink is this is a comparison to a US Standard Drink measure. A Standard Drink corresponds to roughly
- 12 fluid ounces of regular 5% beer
- 8-9 fluid ounces of 7% malt liquor
- 5 fluid ounces of 12% table wine
- 1.5 fluid ounces of 40% distilled spirits
An abstaining pregnant mom who is wanting to try and avoid alcohol as much as possible and worried about an alcohol free drink can look at the middle line. 0.01 = 1% so 1% of a can of beer is a teaspoon, 15 of a glass of wine is 1/3 of a tea spoon and 1% of a measure of spirit is basically a drop.
You may say that a teaspoon of beer is still alcohol but having spoken to many medical professionals, this amount will not affect any body function. Indeed we consume much much more than this in various other drinks and food stuffs without realising it or thinking of their alcoholic content
I have done a full analysis of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks in terms of what you can drink and drive on. If you click here you will see a lot more calculations which are astounding.
Alcohol by volume in food vs alcohol free
Its good to consider other food and beverages that contain tiny amount of alcohol just to understand how free alcohol free really is. There are trace amounts in many of our common foods and these are multiples higher than what is in alcohol free drinks.
|Food or Drink||Alcohol by volume content %|
|Alcohol free drink||<0.05%|
As you can see from the table above, alcohol free drinks have as much alcohol as a pear and 10% the alcohol of orange juice. They even have around 25% the alcohol of rye bread! A pregnant mom would likely not care or consider the alcohol in any of these, nor should they. They are all degrees of trivial.
Ive continually and on purpose posted “alcohol free” in this blog. However there are other terms out there which its important to know the difference on as they can containe x10 or x24 the alcohol content and still sound like they are alcohol free! My full blogs on wines, beers and spirits can be found on the links.
In basic terms there are 3/4 descriptors for low or no alcohol products
|Jurisdiction||What the maximum ABV % can be for “alcohol free”|
|Description on label||Maximum ABV content|
If you are pregnant, i would definitely stick to the “alcohol free” drinks. If you slip into the dealcoholised or non alcoholic drinks then you are drinking x10 the alcohol. I still think this isn’t a significant amount but if you are following all the national guidelines then as close to absolute zero the better. As we looked at above, absolute zero can not happen as many foodstuffs contain trace amounts of alcohol.
For a full article of 12 non alcoholic beer benefits then click here to read
For a full 11 reasons to try non alcoholic gin, follow this link to my article.
For 13 reasons why you should try non alcoholic wine then follow this link to my article