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Pregnancy test dispensers in bars?

Healthy Brains for Children is an organization committed to preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This syndrome is a mental and physical disability that presents in babies whose mothers drank while pregnant. Last year the US chapter installed their first pregnancy test dispenser in a bar in Minnesota.  The purpose of this new campaign is to lower the number of women who drink before they know they are pregnant. The Canadian chapter of Healthy Brains for Children is now bringing this concept to a Canadian university campus bar.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario has installed a pregnancy test machine into the bathroom of one of their bars. Now sexually active students can check whether or not they’re pregnant before they start drinking. Targeting university students seems to be a good idea, as they are more likely to drink in excess. The FAS Aware campaign tells the story of Matthew, whose birth mother was in university when she got pregnant, and continued to drink throughout her pregnancy.

The theory is good, but there are a few flaws. Firstly, their trying to solve the problem of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by targeting those who are freshly pregnant, but most women who aren’t trying to become pregnant won’t have any idea they’re pregnant until 4-6 weeks in. Therefore, most wouldn’t just take a test on the off chance they might be pregnant. Also, if someone has good reason to think they’re pregnant, they probably would have taken a test already.

The other flaw is that denial is a huge factor. If a young student suspects she might be pregnant in less than ideal circumstances (i.e. halfway through her degree), her instinctive reaction is going to be to ignore it. Carry on as normal; pretend it’s not happening etc. It’s an emotional trigger in an already volatile situation. So, it’s unlikely to help those that it’s targeting.

To me it just seems like a backwards way to tackle the problem of women with unexpected pregnancies drinking. Surely, it would be better to focus money and efforts on preventing those unexpected pregnancies in the first place, through contraception and education. The mistake these pregnancy test machines make is assuming that the second a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she will instantly switch into nurturing-mother mode. But the reality is, most of these young women would panic, especially in a public environment. Pregnancy tests are better done when the woman is at home, calm and sober not when she’s out drinking with friends. It’s an interesting idea, but I have my doubts on whether it’ll work…


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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