In Australia, finding dispensers stocked with sanitary products, condoms or (if you’re really lucky) foldable ballet flats in pub bathrooms comes as a pleasant surprise.
So how would you react if you walked into the toilet at your favourite bar and found free pregnancy tests? That will soon be the reality for many women living in Alaska.
In a two-year trial by the University of Alaska, state-funded pregnancy tests will be available in the bathrooms of 20 pubs and restaurants around the northernmost American state, starting this December.
As Anchorage Daily News reports, the trial is designed to address Alaska’s rate of foetal alcohol syndrome, which is the highest of any US state. Alaskan women of child-bearing age are 20% more likely to binge drink when compared to the national average.
Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) can develop in an unborn child when high levels of alcohol consumed by its mother passes through the placental barrier and into the baby’s bloodstream. This can lead to a range of mental and physical defects, including harm to the development of the foetal nervous system and under-nourishment. Exposure to alcohol can also put a foetus at risk of brain damage.
Children with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which sits within this spectrum, can experience problems with growth, behaviour and learning, as well as structural abnormalities or distinctive facial features.
Researchers involved in the Alaskan trial will examine whether posters warning women of the dangers of drinking when pregnant work better when attached to a pregnancy test dispenser, rather than simply being displayed on a wall.
“This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see,” Jody Allen Crowe, who is assisting with the trial, tells Anchorage Daily News.
“This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible.”