Congrats! You’re Drunk and Pregnant
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Congrats! You’re Drunk and Pregnant

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It’s hard to know what a young girl is thinking when she goes out drinking, but it’s safe to assume she’s not hoping to find out that she’s pregnant. Well, four bars in Alaska are aware of that and so they are a part of a $400,000 project to offer free pregnancy tests (via a restroom dispenser) out of the hopes that female patrons will pee on a stick and make sure they aren’t pregnant before deciding (or continuing) to drink.

I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant

While their heart is in the right place, I am not sure how effective Alaska’s tactic to bring down the number of children born with fetal alcohol symptoms in the state each year will be. Though the CDC reports that 17.5% of Alaskan women report that they binge drink (which may sound high but its actually about the national average), I have a hard time believing that women who continue to drink heavily while pregnant do so merely because they aren’t aware that they’re with child. Unless you are a very naive teenager or perhaps mentally challenged, at some point, with rare exceptions, most are going to find it fairly obvious that they have humans growing inside of them.

A Funny Thing Happened in the Bathroom

As it turns out, women can cause severe damage to their unborn child within the first month after they have conceived. That’s pretty alarming since many don’t even know they’re pregnant until they’re about six weeks along. So I admire the state for being proactive in their efforts to help women help themselves and spread awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). With an estimated 120 cases a year of children born with fetal alcohol symptoms—the highest known rate in the country—Alaska’s pilot project will offer women (and let’s face it—girls) the chance to take responsibility for their condition. It may also start a dialogue amongst both genders, hopefully helping people get a better understanding about the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

Whether or not women opt to take the pregnancy test, the dispensers—slated for an additional 16 bar and restaurant bathrooms by 2016—will display FASD prevention messages and artwork so that anyone who sees these wall fixtures will hopefully at least get the message. Though there is only a state budget for a limited number of test dispensaries—a total of 20 distributed amongst three metro areas and some rural suburbs—many other cities in the state will have prevention posters up in bathrooms of their social establishments to help the cause.

So How Well Will This Work?

While offering free pregnancy tests in public bathrooms is a big step in acknowledging—and hopefully diminishing—Alaska’s issue of pregnant women drinking, even people closely involved in the project know that it won’t be effective for everyone. Their target demographic is not women who have a real drinking problem and therefore will be hard pressed stop abusing alcohol based on what they see on a poster, pregnant or not. This project is aimed at the 50 percent of females who honestly do not know they are pregnant and would likely quit drinking immediately if they knew they were and were aware of all the dangers associated with it.

There’s also the fact that when people aren’t accustomed to looking for something they’re not expecting, they may not see it at all. As a bar patron quoted in the NPR story said, she didn’t know if a dispenser would catch her eye before she hit the bottle. But hey, some other ladies must have better vision: when the reporter checked out the dispenser, it was empty.

Here’s hoping Alaskan ladies can keep their eyes peeled.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.