You probably began hearing about everything you must avoid in the months ahead as soon as you told folks you're pregnant. It might feel like there's a never-ending list of things considered harmful during pregnancy, from various foods and beverages to drugs and certain types of physical activity—and alcohol is high up on the list.
So, what happens if you crave the taste of your favorite cocktail or wine? Is it a good idea to reach for a bottle of non-alcoholic wine in pregnancy?
Before delving into that, it’s important to understand why moms-to-be are told to lay off alcohol during pregnancy, the effects alcohol can have on the baby, and if non-alcoholic drinks are truly free of alcohol.
We’ll also take a look at how to read labels so you don’t end up drinking something that has minor amounts of alcohol in it!
Can you drink during pregnancy?
According to official recommendations, no quantity of alcohol is deemed safe to consume while pregnant. While some women opt to consume alcohol while pregnant, and recent publications have cast doubt on the research behind the no-alcohol recommendation, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) urges women to abstain from doing so.
This is because the alcohol you consume can pass through the placenta and reach your child. While an adult's liver can break down alcohol, a baby's liver is still growing and can't sustain it.
Effects of alcohol during pregnancy
Even a modest amount of alcohol consumed while pregnant might have serious consequences. It can place a newborn at risk for a variety of birth problems known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as well as other physical, behavioral, mental, and learning difficulties that can have long-term consequences for the child.
Even light drinking can cause subtle behavioral or learning changes that don’t show up until the child reaches adolescence. It can also increase the risk of miscarriages for mothers by almost 30% in the first trimester and 70% in the second trimester.
However, if you accidentally consumed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, don’t panic! Doctors also say that any alcohol consumed in the very initial days of the pregnancy might end up being harmless as the vast number of healthy cells produced in the latter days is likely to wash out the effects of alcohol.
If you are planning a pregnancy, though, it’s best to stay away from alcohol altogether, even before you conceive.
So, can you drink anything while you’re pregnant? Thankfully, the answer is yes. We now have the option of non-alcoholic drinks to satisfy that craving!
Can you drink non-alcoholic wine in pregnancy?
You must keep a few things in mind about alcohol content and statutory labeling standards before heading to the shop to buy any bottle labeled "non-alcoholic." Although no degree of alcohol is deemed safe for pregnant women, several drinks are branded as "non-alcoholic" but contain some alcohol.
Some non-alcoholic drinks can contain up to 0.5% alcohol which borders slightly on the alcoholic side. Some drinks can even contain upwards of 1% ABV even if the label claims it to be “non-alcoholic” if they're imported from countries with different regulations and classifications.
As a result, it's critical to read all labels carefully to determine the precise amount of alcohol by volume in each beverage, and you should also talk to your doctor about how even extremely low quantities of alcohol could impact you while pregnant.
Reading the labels
You can find the following three types of labels on non-alcoholic drinks.
This is the most common label, and it's the one you should pay the most attention to if you're trying to stay away from alcohol.
To be considered "non-alcoholic," beverages must have a 0.5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) or below. However, a half-percentage point is not the same as zero, therefore the title can be misleading for those who aren't aware of this regulation.
If a drink is branded "Non-Alcoholic" or "N/A," read the label carefully for the ABV. It'll usually read something along the lines of "Contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume".
While you're unlikely to get even somewhat tipsy from that quantity of alcohol in a few drinks, it's still a good idea to see your doctor before trying any.
These drinks start as conventional alcoholic beverages. The alcohol is eliminated from the product at a certain point during the manufacturing process, either by filtering or a chemical procedure, to produce a non-alcoholic form.
The important thing to remember with this label is that the alcohol in these products can never be completely removed, so they may have an ABV of more than 0.5%, which starts to blur the line between non-alcoholic and alcoholic, so you must check the ABV and try to avoid these beverages while pregnant.
These beverages are sometimes branded as "0.0 %" drinks since they contain no detectable alcohol. That doesn't necessarily imply there's no alcohol in them; nevertheless, the quantity is so small that it doesn't show up in lab tests.
While this is not actively advertised on any bottle, check for this in the ingredients. It’s a botanical substance (like mushrooms or herbs) that’s often added to homeopathic medicines or drinks to lift moods. But there’s little research to show if it’s safe for pregnant women or their babies, so it’s best to avoid anything with this ingredient.
While it’s generally safe to use mixers to add that extra bit of flavor to a mocktail, do read the label carefully to ensure it doesn’t contain alcohol.
It’s never safe to consume any amount of alcohol during pregnancy. But, if you choose to indulge in a non-alcoholic drink, follow the label instructions above and find a beverage that truly has zero alcohol. Even then, it’s best to consult your doctor before you consume anything that you’re not sure of!