Keeping children healthy

New initiative aims to reduce early development damage.

Daily Editorial Board

One Minnesota bar has recognized the convenience of easily accessible pregnancy tests. Pub 500 is working with the nonprofit organization Healthy Brains for Children in effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related birth defects seen in newborns.

HBC installed the first vending machine — which sells pregnancy tests for $3 each — in the women’s restroom of the Mankato bar as a part of their “Think Before You Drink” initiative. Their goal is to increase awareness of prenatal exposure to alcohol and to promote refraining from recreational drinking while pregnant.

Some women may be unaware of the risks involved, but drinking in the early phases of pregnancy leads to fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol-related complications.

According to HBC, alcohol use causes damage to the unborn child’s brain, and one binge of five drinks during the first trimester can lead to a full fetal-alcohol-syndrome child. In Minnesota, an estimated 2,000 babies are born with birth defects every year — more than 120,000 total in the United States.

Alcohol-related birth defects are the leading cause of death in children under one year old and contribute to one in every five deaths. Babies born with birth defects also have a greater chance of long-term disability than those born without.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last week that said out of the 14,000 pregnant women surveyed, nearly one in five said they drank four or more drinks in a sitting during their pregnancy.

Drinking while pregnant is an issue, and the initiative brings attention to those with a high risk for unexpected pregnancies. Executive director and founder of the organization Jody Crowe said he hopes to eventually have 100 more dispensers placed in the Twin Cities area.