According to the findings of a new study, pregnant women are binge drinking more than those who are not in their pregnancies. This has medical professionals worried, as binge drinking could have harmful effects on pregnancy. It can even cause birth defects.

Binge drinking has been defined as taking more than four drinks at one time. One in 33 admits to drinking according to this report, and about a third of these women drink when they are pregnant. Authors of the report have cautioned that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful. It’s actually an old cautionary, but it doesn’t seem to have had any effect.

The general perception among many Americans that a little bit of alcohol, even during pregnancy, is not harmful has been blamed for this by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But leading medical groups are saying that this is not the case.

Even a little bit can cause a lot of damage on both the mother and the yet to be born child. Light drinking can cause lifelong learning and behavioral health problems in a child, says the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also stated that there is no safe amount of alcohol for a pregnant woman to consume.

The Mayo Clinic’s position though is more moderate. It states that one drink isn’t likely to hurt a baby, but concludes that, “the safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely”.

What happens when a pregnant woman drinks? The alcohol passes through the placenta into the fetus, which at this stage, cannot break it down. Heavy drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which can result in physical and behavioral problems in a child, as well as learning disabilities.

The report also says that between 2% and 5% first-grade students in the U.S. might have disorders related to fetal alcohol syndrome.

Niladri Bose is a Post Graduate in Mass Communication and former journalist. Niladri writes on economic and political issues, finance, healthcare, social and Internet trends.