Apparently, those long Alaskan nights have state health officials concerned about women drinking alcohol during their pregnancies. So much so that they will soon be making free pregnancy tests available in public restrooms.
Beginning this December, the state will begin offering free pregnancy tests in women's restrooms at 20 Alaskan bars and restaurants.
The idea comes from the researchers at the University of Alaska who plan on putting together a study based on these free tests to see, when paired with planned messages about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), if the effort is successful at raising public awareness about the perils of drinking while pregnant.
"We're trying to get prevention messages out to women so that women understand how important it is to not drink during pregnancy," explained Janet Johnston, a University of Alaska professor who is spearheading the project.
The numbers that have the state's health official concerned are this: 163 Alaskan children born each year have been affected by prenatal alcohol exposure, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Services. That boils down to approximately 16 children for every 1,000 live births.
Though many states do not compile FASD rates, Johnston added that among those states that do, Alaska has the highest incidence of children born with alcohol exposure.
"It needs to be an issue that people are thinking about across the country, but this is a good place to be doing the study because we know we have high rates and it's something that people are concerned about," she added.
In addition to the free tests there will be as voluntary survey women can fill out and if they do they'll receive a $15 iTunes gift certificate. Upon answering the survey questions, researchers will follow up with participants in six months to see what they've learned about FASD.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a dedicated spot on its website regarding pregnancy and alcohol and it leads with this statement:
"There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby."