Lia flushable pregnancy test kits


Flushable pregnancy tests will be revolutionary

Photo: Lia flushable pregnancy tests

The world’s first biodegradable pregnancy test is great for the planet, but even better for women, says Rachael Sigee

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By Rachael Sigee on

There is an episode of Veep in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as Selina Meyer, says: “If men got pregnant, you could get an abortion at the ATM.” She’s being flippant, but she’s right.

Medicine is one of the pillars of the patriarchy and women have been an afterthought since… well, forever. For decades, we have been left out of scientific studies, been stiffed on research funding and told our genuine health problems are in our heads. It literally took over 170 years for the speculum to get an update.

The stick home-pregnancy test was revolutionary when it became commericially available in 1987 and, despite the industry being worth over $1,100m worldwide, there has been a 30-year stalemate on improving or redesigning it. Technology from the 1980s might be making a comeback but, unlike dusting off your record player, we can’t be nostalgic for something that never went away in the first place.

Finally, women-run tech company Lia Diagnostics has announced that they will be launching the world’s first flushable pregnancy test next year, having had their design FDA-approved. With 99 per cent accuracy (the same as traditional tests), it could be a real gamechanger for women and the planet. And let’s face it, both of them could do with a little TLC.

Taking a pregnancy test is a complicated combination of indignity – peeing on a bulky plastic stick – and high emotional tension, whether you’re desperate for a positive result or praying for a negative one.

Added into that heady mix is what you’re supposed to do with the used test when you’re done and Lia claims that being able to flush it away will mean no longer having to rearrange the contents of the bin to hide a test that could lead to embarrassment, awkward questions or even very real danger.

The stick pregnancy test has literally been a plot point in TV shows and films for decades – how often have we seen a farcical storyline because of assumptions made about the pregnancy test found in the bin? It might be a punchline but, in reality, the seeming indestructibility of stick tests can have serious consequences for women.

Women so often have control of their bodies wrestled from them – by politicians, husbands and partners, families and employers. The importance of the privacy accorded to them by being able to keep their pregnancy or non-pregnancy secret cannot be underestimated

Women so often have control of their bodies wrestled from them – by politicians, husbands and partners, families and employers. The importance of the privacy accorded to them by being able to keep their pregnancy or non-pregnancy secret cannot be underestimated. Discretion does not necessarily mean shame or prudishness; it can mean safety from judgement, abuse and violence.

Women who do not want to be pregnant and may face scrutiny of their behaviour or difficulty in obtaining an abortion could retain autonomy if they are able to handle their situation covertly.

Women who are having problems becoming pregnant and taking tests frequently could avoid the upsetting circumstance of filling the rubbish with unsuccessful tests.

Women who take tests in their workplace, aware that pregnancy and motherhood has historically not been great for career prospects, could be more able to control when and how they share that information.

And the flushability isn’t just radical for users. Traditional pregnancy tests add two million pounds of plastic to landfill sites every year. Even if you didn’t watch the final episode of Blue Planet last night, it’s fairly obvious that that is not a good thing.

Lia’s tests will be biodegradable and compostable. Made from paper instead of plastic, they are designed to absorb liquid for long enough to take the test but, when flushed, will dissolve. Unlike some other green developments in the women’s health arena, like eco-friendly tampons, the test won’t be priced astronomically; they are slated to be sold for somewhere between $9 and $22.

It looks more like a pantyliner than a pregnancy test and will reportedly be thin enough to be shipped in an envelope (more top marks for privacy). Lia also have plans to develop their technology further and see a potential use for UTI diagnoses.

To paraphrase Selina Meyer, if men got periods, PMT would have been cured half a century ago. If they suffered from cystitis in the same way as women, there would be a vaccination at birth. And if they got pregnant, they’d certainly be able to get tested without everyone knowing about it.

Research and development like this is beyond exciting for women’s health and there is so much scope – there are a lot of issues to be solved, preferably by brilliant female engineers like those at Lia.


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Photo: Lia flushable pregnancy tests
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