On buying a pregnancy test.

I got a phone call from one of my best friends the other night and while we were chatting, she told me a story which had quite an effect on me. I asked if she would mind if I posted about the scenario, in order to generate some discussion about the topic. She was happy for me to do so, and so here is a story about buying a pregnancy test.

My friend had been feeling quite nauseous a few mornings last week and so, although it was unlikely that she would be pregnant, she naturally thought it would be sensible to take a pregnancy test. She went into a very well-known large pharmacy in the middle of a big city, picked up a single pregnancy test of their own brand, and took it to the counter.

The woman behind the counter began to speak to me friend about her purchase.

Cashier: “Ooh, these are the best kind! Much better than getting those Clear Blue, these show you just as quick!”

Friend: “Okay…”

Cashier: “I mean, are you hoping for a yes?”

Friend: “Umm… I’m not fussed, really…”

Cashier: “It’s just because we have the twin pack over there if you want to be sure!”

Friend: “No, this one’s fine, thanks”.

Now to many people this might seem like an innocent and even friendly, good practice service in a shop. I disagree.

My friend is in a stable, long-term relationship, has a good job and a mortgage. Finding out she was pregnant would perhaps not be ideal, but it would not be the end of the world and she would have the full support of her partner and family behind her. But the cashier did not know that.

Consider that it was not my friend in this scenario, but the victim of sexual assault. Buying a single pregnancy test to assure that she does not have to live with the decision of what to do if she found out she was carrying an unwanted baby as well as potentially living with the horror, shame, guilt and pain that many victims of sexual assault do.

Granted that is an extreme example, but even if we look at a young woman for whom being pregnant would be the end of her world. I’m not ashamed to say that I myself would perhaps fall into that category. Or at the other end of the scale, a woman who has been trying and trying to get pregnant for a very long time, and while passing the pharmacy wants to try just one more test to be sure the others haven’t been false negatives.

The point I am trying to make is that people selling things like pregnancy tests should be aware that not everyone shares their views on pregnancy. My friend said she felt bad because she “wasn’t fussed” about being pregnant, when this woman whom she had never met seemed so excited about the possibility of her uterus being occupied by an embryo. For many women, buying a pregnancy test is already quite a daunting thing to do, already associated with anxiety and nerves, whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative.

If women associate previous experience of purchasing a pregnancy test with feelings of discomfort, anxiety and distress, they may be reluctant to go into a shop and buy a pregnancy test in the future, which may lead to them to instead ignore the situation, which would not be a good thing. People who sell pregnancy tests should know to use sensitivity and discretion and certainly not believe that everyone who buys a pregnancy test is hoping for a positive.

I’m interested to hear what others think about this. Do you agree or me or think I’m being unfair? Please do comment, I’m happy to hear your views.

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4 thoughts on “On buying a pregnancy test.

  1. Claire Q says:

    Yep, you’re totally right, and there should be training on this. As a former Nightliner (student version of Samaritans, basically) it reads as horrifically insensitive, but sometimes people genuinely mean well and just haven’t thought about it. They should think about it.

    In Nightline (yes, working in a shop doesn’t have quite the same expectations) we were taught to ask how people were feeling and never assume that we knew already, whatever the situation. We gave out free pregnancy tests and always said “if you want to come back and talk about it afterwards, we’re here”. When I’ve had a pregnancy test from a family planning clinic they asked explicitly “how do you think you’ll react if you are pregnant” – which gives them a bit of a clue before it happens.

    A shop worker doesn’t have to help them through any emotions, but they can minimise damage by remaining neutral until the customer gives them some sort of clue. It’s just professionalism.

  2. Jenny. says:

    I did an online survey for a large, well-known pharmacy brand, quite possibly the same one, a couple of weeks ago (they were offering the chance to win vouchers). The questions revolved around my experience of shopping in their stores, and they particularly wanted to know if the staff had been friendly and made me feel ‘special’. As I pointed out to them, I don’t go into shops to feel ‘special’ or make friends with the staff- politeness and good service will do fine, thanks. However, presumably they are training their staff in friendliness(!), and I guess this is what your friend was on the receiving end of. It certainly shows a lack of insight into what people might be going into a pharmacy for, and ignores the sensitive nature of some of the purchases made in pharmacies.

  3. Lori says:

    It sounded like unintentional creepiness…some things obviously are better bought without comment (maxi pads, antifungals, prep h come to mind), and I would imagine most people should have some idea that pregnancy test might fall into that category. Just smile, innocuous chitchat would suit me, and no comment on what would be an emtionally loaded purchase.

  4. loreleianna says:

    Yes this is totally inappropriate, I have to say the times I have found myself buying a pregnancy test have not once been associated with a sense of excited anticipation, and it’s insensitive to assume so. I have also found that they are often kept behind the counter, forcing a conversation with a sales assistant when one is really not wanted. Still, at least we don’t have to wee on frogs any more, small mercies!

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