Older and more educated women are more likely to drink alcohol during pregnancy, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Friday.
About one in 13 women drink while pregnant, according to the study, and out of those women, one in four reportedly binge drink.
The researchers examined more than 340,000 self-reported surveys that were a part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of data from women between the ages of 18 and 44.
More than 7 percent of pregnant women in the study reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, compared with 51 percent of women who were not pregnant.
Women in the study between the ages of 35 and 44 reported the highest amount of drinking while pregnant, at 14 percent.
U.S. public health officials and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourage women from consuming alcohol while pregnant because of its potential to harm the baby's physical, emotional and cognitive development.
"Pregnant and nonpregnant women of childbearing age who misuse alcohol might benefit from public health interventions … such as increased alcohol excise taxes and limiting alcohol outlet density," the authors wrote.
Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes, said the numbers were "troubling."
While some past studies have reported that light drinking while pregnant does not harm the baby, Katz said women should stay away from alcohol completely during those nine months.
"We know that alcohol is very seriously damaging," said Katz. "We don't know if there is any safe level of drinking, but that's a determination that will never be made.
"It's ludicrous to suggest that one should even look for a safe level of alcohol while pregnant," he continued. "There is a danger that will always be there with alcohol. Unlike some other risks during pregnancy that are unavoidable, this one is. It is fully controllable and it is not such an enormous effort not to drink."