Researchers reveal results of study which placed pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms


It was a controversial study when Fairbanks senator Pete Kelly proposed it two years ago. Now the results of putting state funded pregnancy tests in bar restrooms is out.

Researchers from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies conducted the $400,000 study, which aimed to see whether easy access to pregnancy tests in bars would encourage women to stop drinking if they found out they out were pregnant. Researchers wanted to show whether the approach would be an effective way to cut down on Alaska’s high rate of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum (FAS) disorders.

The dispensers included information on drinking and pregnancy. The study also asked women to take a survey with a small gift card as incentive, as well as a follow up survey six months later. UAA’s Ryan Ray, who helped design the survey, listed some highlights.

  • 12,000-plus pregnancy tests were distributed in four locations across the state.
  • 2,069 women participated in the study, 60 percent agreed to the follow up survey.
  • 90 Women reported they were currently pregnant.
  • 81 percent reported they had stopped drinking upon learning they were pregnant.
  • 42 women reported learning they were pregnant after taking a pregnancy test from the restroom dispenser.
  • All 42 women said they stopped drinking when they learned of their pregnancy

“When forty-two woman alone found out they were pregnant from a pregnancy test in a bar where they went planning to consume alcohol, that’s a big deal,” said Ray.

UAA Circumpolar Health Studies Director David Driscoll said the study showed something more: that women need better access to pregnancy tests.

Driscoll said women cited barriers like cost and, in rural Alaska, privacy when it came to getting tested early in their pregnancies.

He said the study also looked to see how well women retained the information on drinking during pregnancy when it was presented not just on a poster, but actually on the pregnancy dispensers. Driscoll said the follow up survey showed women remembered the information more clearly when the pregnancy dispenser was present.

Driscoll said the dispensers have been taken down for now but he’d like to see them go up again. He’s hoping federal funding may pay to do a larger study state-wide.

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