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Home Pregnancy Tests Lead to Healthier Newborns

Women Find Out They Are Pregnant Sooner

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Updated February 27, 2009

Woman With Pregnancy Test

Woman With Pregnancy Test

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Having a home pregnancy test handy can lead women to seek prenatal care earlier and stop harmful behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, because they find out they are pregnant sooner, researchers found.

A Michigan State University study of 198 women found that having a home pregnancy test available for women who were having unprotected sex could have a substantial impact on the health of their newborns.

Women Become More Vigilant

Mary Nettleman, MD, the chairperson of the College of Human Medicine's Department of Medicine, found that the main reason women do not seek prenatal care is because they do not realize they are pregnant. If they do not realize they are pregnant, they do not change any harmful behaviors which can lead to developmental problems in newborns.

Drinking during pregnancy can result in a child being born with a range of disorders known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

"This simple intervention, giving home pregnancy test kits to women who are having unprotected sex, was able to do what no other study has done -- influence women to be more vigilant about potential pregnancy," Nettleman wrote.

Women Realized Pregnancy Earlier

Nettleman studied 198 adult, low-income women who were having unprotected sex, but were not trying to conceive. Half of the women were given free home pregnancy tests and were able to order more when they needed them. The control group was not given the home testing kits.

When pregnancy was suspected, 93% of the women in the intervention group had a pregnancy test while only 64 percent in the control group had a test. The intervention group women also tested for pregnancy much more frequently than the control group.

Powerful Behavioral Stimulus

The research also found that finding out they were pregnant was a powerful stimulus on the behavior of the women.

"Telling a woman she is pregnant will often cause her to immediately stop or cut down on smoking, drinking and other behaviors that can hurt the baby," Nettleman said in a news release. "The problem is that many women do not recognize they are pregnant for several weeks, which is all it takes for the heart and brain to form. Earlier pregnancy recognition could have a huge impact on the health of newborns in this country."

No Safe Alcohol Level

If you are pregnant, there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption. You should stop drinking immediately. If you find that it is difficult to stop drinking, there are many treatment options available.

Source:
Nettleman, Mary D. et al. "Self-Testing for Pregnancy Among Women at Risk: A Randomized Controlled Trial." American Journal of Preventive Medicine. February 2009.

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