Two years ago, Alaska put pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms to stop pregnant women from drinking alcohol, in an effort to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in children.
According to KTVA Alaska, the ‘experiment’ is over, and researchers found that 81% of women who used the test stopped drinking when they learned they were pregnant.
Alaska has the highest rate of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) of states that track FASD in the nation, and officials were desperate to bring those rates down.
Researchers from the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies placed state-funded dispensers in the bathrooms of bars to see if easy access to pregnancy tests would encourage women to stop drinking if they found out they were pregnant. The researchers’ goal was to see if this approach would be effective in cutting down the high rate of FASD.
In addition to pregnancy tests, the dispensers also had information about the effects of drinking and pregnancy, as well as the opportunity for women to take a survey and receive a gift card as incentive. According to the survey results, 2069 women participated in the study and 60 percent agreed to a follow-up survey six months later.
Ninety percent of the women who were surveyed reported they were currently pregnant, with 81 percent of those surveyed saying that once they learned they were pregnant, they stopped drinking. Additionally, of those surveyed, 42 women reported that they learned they were pregnant using the pregnancy tests from the restroom dispensers and ALL 42 women said that once they learned that, they stopped drinking immediately.
Researcher Ryan Ray, who helped design the survey the women used, said that it’s a big deal when the 42 women who found out they were pregnant with the bathroom tests ALL stopped drinking immediately upon learning the test was positive, especially considering they were in a bar where they most likely were planning to consume alcohol before they found out.
David Driscoll, UAA Circumpolar Health Studies Director said that the study reinforces the belief that women need better access to pregnancy tests, and that would encourage less drinking while pregnant and therefore fewer cases of FASD. Unfortunately, the surveyed women said that things like cost and privacy stood against the women as barriers to early pregnancy testing.
Driscoll says that as the experiment is over, the dispensers have been taken down, but he believes that them going up again can only be a positive step toward prevention of more FASD cases.
He’s hopeful that federal funding may allow the researchers to do the study on a larger, state-wide scale.