Can You Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer When Pregnant?

Advice to pregnant women is that they avoid drinking alcohol at all costs. Questions, therefore, arise on whether a pregnant woman can drink non-alcoholic beer. However, non-alcoholic beer is not free of alcohol. It has some traces of alcohol (<0.5% ABv). This article discusses whether drinking beer with trace amounts of alcohol is safe.

Effects Of Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant

Consuming alcohol for the non pregnant adult may be considered to have some health benefits. An example is the heart-healthy antioxidants present in red wine. However, when you get pregnant, it is all different. The alcohol gets to the baby’s system through the placenta. Issues arise here.  An adult’s liver can break down alcohol, while the baby’s liver is still developing and cannot.

It eventually affects the development of the fetus. Some of the symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) include a baby having stunted growth, a dysfunctional nervous system (which will result in behavioral disorders), and facial abnormalities. Some of the effects may be lifelong and may affect the baby’s mental, behavioral, and learning abilities.

Another effect of alcohol is on the woman. She risks having a miscarriage.

A Danish study on 90,000 pregnancies came up with some results. Light drinking during the first trimester increases the risk of miscarriage by up to 30 percent. In the second trimester, the risk of a miscarriage resulting from light alcohol is up to 70 percent.

Effects Of Drinking During Early Pregnancy Before You Know

The strict guidelines by the CDC leave women in panic. They wonder what happens if they drank before realizing they are pregnant. The CDC restrains women from drinking alcohol if they are trying to conceive. But many women take even up to four weeks before they realize they are pregnant.

In the US alone, 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned. Therefore, many women drink alcohol during the early stages of pregnancy before they learn they are pregnant. They may end up panicking once they realize they are pregnant. However, experts have given their opinion on drinking during the very early stages of pregnancy.

Iffath Hoskins, MD, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, says that alcohol you drink during the very early stages of your pregnancy may not have any effect on the fetus. He says that any harmful effects of alcohol are corrected as soon as you stop drinking.

The reason is that there are a lot of healthy cells that are developing rapidly. As per experts’ advice, stay away from alcohol as soon as you learn you are pregnant. Also, if actively trying to get pregnant, CDC advises that you stay away from alcohol. That reduces any risk of drinking during the very early stages of your pregnancy.

Further advice is that if you start a family with a male partner, advise him to stop drinking alcohol. It ensures that the sperm meets the egg when both are healthy. Iffath Hoskins further says that the first few weeks are vital for the pregnancy to survive. Any damage to the embryo may lead to a miscarriage.

Differing Opinions On Drinking While Pregnant

Different people give different opinions on drinking while pregnant. Some moms-to-be choose to enjoy a glass of wine occasionally. Some obstetricians even encourage them to drink once in a while.

The obstetricians base their argument on the UK Millennium Cohort Study. The study tracked conducted 11, 000 children born between 2000 and 2002. The results were that kids whose mothers drank a little when they were pregnant scored higher on cognitive function. They had minimum behavioral or attention problems.

However, experts wonder whether the findings are more on correlation than causation. The women who lightly consumed alcohol during pregnancy were more likely to be higher educated. They also had a higher socioeconomic bracket compared to the other women in the study. The children may, therefore, have had more opportunities and advantages.

What are non-alcoholic beers?

Non-alcoholic beer, or NA Beer is one of the fastest growing categories in the alcohol industry driven by consumer trends. There is a slow and steady global decline in alcohol sales and this is largely driven by a health conscious movement, known as the “sober curious movement”, which is a product of the evolving perspective on drinking and our deepening understanding of fitness and wellness.

The most important consideration lies in the definition of what a non-alcoholic or alcohol free beer actually means. When you consider the phrase “non-alcoholic beer”, most people would think that these beers would contain no alcohol at all, based on the language.

However, non-alcoholic beers actually do contain a small amount of alcohol and the amounts would depend on your country of residence.

In the United States, alcohol free or non-alcoholic beers would be classified as having 0.5% ABV.

Facts From Research Conducted

Research conducted by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto discovered that some non-alcoholic brands contained more alcohol than what the label says. Pregnant women who consumed non-alcoholic (and low-alcohol) beverages were putting their babies at risk.

The research investigated 45 different beverages. The researchers bought drinks that claimed to have no alcohol or low alcohol (less than 0.5 percent). Through chromatography, they tested the concentration of ethanol in the glasses. The results were that 13 of the beverages contained ethanol levels higher than what the labels said. Some had a near 2 percent ethanol concentration.

Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beers

Non-alcoholic beers result from removing alcohol from regular beer. One of the methods involves heating the beer. However, heating may have a significant impact on the taste of the end product. Sometimes, it is heated inside a vacuum so that it lowers its boiling point. It, therefore, preserves the original flavor.

Most of the non-alcoholic beers contain some amounts of alcohol. Some have more ethanol than what is on the label. Alcohol levels in the non-alcoholic beer may go up to 1.8%. As recommended by the Center for Diseases Control (CDC), pregnant women should avoid alcohol. Alcohol exposes the unborn baby to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

No amount of alcohol is, therefore, recommended for pregnant women. CDC recommends sticking solely to beverages that contain no alcohol. The question again is, what constitutes no alcohol? The answer is not clear. Therefore, the decision on what drinks to use remains with the pregnant woman, in consultation with her doctor. Non-Alcoholic beer breweries also back this statement by stating that no amount of alcohol is safe, not even a drop.

The extent of exposure to alcohol after one ingests non-alcoholic drinks is still unclear. However, a woman may inadvertently consume a considerable amount of alcohol from non-alcoholic beer. Some may consume several drinks in one sitting. They think the non-alcoholic beer are safe, meaning they can take a lot of them. However, as evidenced by the research from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the label may not be reflective of how much alcohol the individual beer may contain. Furthermore, because there is no established safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, all non-alcoholic, “alcohol free” beers, spirits, and wine must be absolutely avoided during pregnancy.

Conclusion

Drinking non-alcoholic beverages may expose the pregnant woman to alcohol. Although the drinks’ alcohol levels may be small, there is no recommended amount of alcohol for a pregnant woman. Therefore, pregnant women should abstain from non-alcoholic beer to eliminate any risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

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