By Michelle Maltais
Los Angeles Times.
Ladies, how likely would you be to take a pregnancy test in the bathroom of a bar?
Bars and restaurants in Alaska are set later this year to have home pregnancy test dispensers installed in their bathrooms.
Forget all of the awkwardly comedic images of the logistics of testing for something so life-altering in a place so public.
This is part of a prevention study looking at how best to drop the numbers of children afflicted with a disorder that is 100% preventable: fetal alcohol syndrome.
“We know alcohol crosses the placenta,” perinatologist Dr. Rachel Gutkin told The Times in an interview. “Within two hours, there is alcohol in the placenta.”
No one can say how much alcohol a mother can safely consume, but the effects on baby can be irreversible, she said.
Alaska has the highest reported rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the United States, according to the state’s Department of Health and Social Services. Officials estimate that about 163 children born each year (or 16.3 per 1,000 live births) in Alaska are reported to the Alaska Birth Defects Registry as affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol.
While Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can be punctuated by specific attributes, including changes in the face and organ defects, FASD can go undetected at birth and emerges over time. However, the challenges will follow children into adulthood, throughout their lives, Gutkin said.
Enter Dr. David Driscoll and pregnancy test dispensers.
Driscoll is director of the University of Alaska at Anchorage’s Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS) and leads the research team that will study the impact of placing 30 dispensers with a “think before you drink” message on it in six communities. Another six communities will get just a framed poster with the same message.
He said in an interview with The Times that the team expects the test is likely to leave more of an impression. It has certainly already garnered nationwide media coverage.