In our new series Let’s Talk About, The Pill Club interns have candid discussions about topics pertaining to women’s health and wellness. Here, four summer interns get real about pregnancy tests—including the stigma surrounding them and how to ultimately move past it.
Bibi: Hi, I’m Bibi. I’m an intern on the Growth team here at The Pill Club. I grew up in California and am about to get a Masters in Finance from Boston College.
Megan: I’m Megan. I’m also on the Growth team. I go to UC Davis where I’m studying Communication, Econ, and Tech Management. That’s a little bit about me.
Mariana: My name’s Mariana. I’m originally from Palo Alto, California. I’m currently an undergraduate at USC. I’m one of the Communications & Policy interns at The Pill Club.
Nurah: Hi, my name’s Nurah. I’m a design intern. I’m originally from Massachusetts, and I recently graduated from Wellesley College where I studied art.
Mariana: I think maybe one of the first times I saw a pregnancy test was in a movie when I was young, maybe on Disney channel.
Megan: Disney channel, really?
Mariana: Probably! Usually it was associated with one of the actresses being scared…
Megan: I can see it being TeenNick, but I’m surprised about Disney channel!
Bibi: Usually when I see it in a movie, like a romcom, it [creates] either excitement or fear. It’s usually around someone who’s trying to get pregnant, and the reactions are very extreme…
Nurah: I was rewatching an old episode of [the original] Gossip Girl the other day, and Serena gets a pregnancy test for Blair, and Gossip Girl snaps a photo. It’s this whole big thing.
Bibi: I think what’s been hard about movies portraying pregnancy tests is not that [a female character] uses it and finds out that she’s pregnant, but it’s when she shows it to the guy and he’s like, This is terrible. I think that’s had a lasting impact on young girls and it’s maybe why it seems like a scary thing… I haven’t used one before, but I can definitely see myself having to go get one at some point. I feel like it would be the same feeling as getting emergency contraception—there’s a stigma around it. I can see how there’s, not shame, but nervousness and not wanting to accidentally bump into someone when you’re trying to buy it, or trying to buy something with it, or going in and going out of the store really fast, or buying it at night…
Megan: I think I even feel awkward about buying pads with a male cashier, so a pregnancy test would be…
Nurah: You’ve got to try to go to the self-checkout!
Bibi: There was one time I did buy Plan B, but it was in a locked box, so I had to go to the counter and speak to someone about getting one, which is kind of ridiculous.
Nurah: At my college, they have condoms available in all the dorms, which is refreshing to see honestly, because it’s not like they’re trying to hide it. They know people are going to have sex and that’s just a normal part of life.
Bibi: That’s interesting because my college was Catholic, so I don’t have any recollection of seeing condoms in our health services or in any of the dorms. We had a sex-ed club—and you’d see them give out condoms—but during Covid obviously there’s no access to that because we couldn’t get close to people, so there was really no safe space on campus, for me at least.
Mariana: I went to college in Boston for the first two years before transferring, and they had this thing called the Condom Fairy who would deliver condoms directly to your door. It was completely anonymous...
Mariana: …but in terms of pregnancy tests, I wasn’t aware of them offering anything like that at all, nor did they give us any resources to access that.
Bibi: I know some schools make condoms and emergency contraception available in vending machines. It’s so smart. It’s a lot easier, and it’s kind of concealed. You could be buying anything—it’s sold with snacks or other first-aid items.
Megan: I think I’d be more likely to buy emergency contraception—it’s a pretty common thing—but pregnancy tests almost feel like the final step, like the last resort.
Bibi: Yeah, it’s like if you don’t see it, it’s not there. I think a lot of people avoid taking a test because if you don’t take it, you can keep thinking you’re not pregnant. You can avoid the confrontation, if it’s something you don’t want.
Megan: It’s like stepping on the scale!
Bibi: I’ve never taken one, but I had an encounter when I was in college where I wanted to go get one, and I remember my doctor saying you need to wait two weeks from your period being late before taking it for it to actually work. I was kind of shocked because I didn't know that. It’s something that’s supposed to help me, but it’s not talked about at all. I just feel like learning about pregnancy tests and the education around it is just not there. I was already in college and I still didn’t know that it doesn’t work right away.
Mariana: Yeah, in my sexual health education in high school, we received no education in regards to pregnancy tests. It wasn’t talked about at all. It was like it shouldn’t even be something you’re taking, so we weren’t informed on how to take it, how to buy one, if there are different brands… I personally feel pretty in the dark about it because I haven’t been in a scenario where I’ve needed to get one yet, so, because of that, I haven’t looked into it, which means that I would only do the research if I was already in a situation where I needed one, which probably isn’t good.
Bibi: Yeah, even with birth control, all the research I’ve done on it is very much on my own time and through asking my friends and things like that. None of it was ever learned in middle school or high school. They were just like, Don’t have sex. If you do, use a condom. They never told us that there was birth control—and there were birth control options. It goes hand in hand with a pregnancy test because sometimes, depending on your birth control, you don’t get your period. Using a pregnancy test for that extra reassurance shouldn’t be a scary tool, but I think because there is a stigma around it people my age—at least all my friends—haven’t used it.
Megan: I think you’re right that a lot of sex ed is word-of-mouth with your friends.
Bibi: I just started an IUD, so I think it’s possible I may get a pregnancy test soon because with the IUD some people won’t get their period at all or will get it erratically. If I don’t get my period at all, I’ll want to double check, just in case, because what if my IUD isn’t working?
Nurah: I feel like I would definitely go out and get one, if I felt like that was necessary for me and if I was in a situation where I felt like it was a good thing to do. In terms of media and how it’s usually portrayed, the pregnancy test is usually something you’d get if it was a last-minute decision. But I’d be open to getting it. There has been a stigma around it, but I feel like you need to do what you need to do at the end of the day, so there really shouldn't be that stigma around it. It is sexual health and it’s important to be able to talk openly about it.
Mariana: For me, I think it’s kind of twofold. I think if I had decided that I needed to go get one, I would go get one and I probably wouldn’t feel too self-conscious about it because I grew up in a community where [sexual health] was talked about and I had a lot of exposure to it. That being said, I’m not one to necessarily always prioritize my health, so I don’t know if I would postpone getting one as long as possible before I actually followed through.
Nurah: I feel like Plan B is something you use not to get pregnant, and then a pregnancy test is something you use to get pregnant, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Megan: I think it’s lines of defense. First, there’s the birth control pill or IUD, then it’s condoms and regular contraceptives, and then emergency contraceptives, and then it’s the pregnancy test.
Mariana: I’ve had friends who have taken a pregnancy test but didn’t tell me they took it—I only found out a few months later—so they were definitely embarrassed. It came out in moments when they were sharing a lot.
Megan: People are open about their sex lives and birth control even, but they don’t talk about peeing on a stick.
Bibi: I’ve heard more stories of emergency contraception.
Nurah: Me too. But without the barrier of having to get a prescription, it’s a little less daunting knowing that you can get it and it doesn’t have to be a big issue. The Pill Club coming out with a pregnancy test is a really big step because if it could be delivered, it would be even more accessible. It does take away that stress. Having it be more accessible in general is really important.
Mariana: I totally agree. It seems like collectively we’ve all said that the biggest obstacle to us getting one is the shame or embarrassment of going to a physical pharmacy, so having it delivered would be really ideal.
Bibi: Yeah, going into the store and seeing people watch you get it is what I worry about, so getting it in the mail is way easier. Then it’s like getting a package from Amazon! It could be like condoms—you’d get it just in case something came up.
Megan: I definitely think the convenience of it being shipped—versus me having to go out and buy it—will make me more likely to get it and just have it there. I think everyone understands the value of having a pregnancy test at home, but the actual act of getting it can be a barrier.
Megan: If you were to buy a pregnancy test now, do you think you’d want to go alone or with a friend or with a partner?
Bibi: That’s a good question.
Mariana: I could see me making my partner go buy it for me!
Bibi: I think it depends if your partner is supportive. Obviously I’d want him to come with me because it takes two to do things! But if it’s a one-time thing, or if I didn’t have a supportive person, then maybe I’d go with my friends or by myself.
Nurah: I’d want to go with a friend or a partner because then it makes it a little less scary, instead of going in on your own and wondering if people are looking or whatever. Having at least one person there makes it a little less scary.
Mariana: But in terms of using it, I’d rather be alone just to have the privacy.
Bibi: I feel like using it in front of an “audience”—like if you had a friend or a significant other waiting for you on the other side—may feel like a lot of pressure, in case it’s an answer that you don’t want. If you’re alone, you have time to mentally prepare.
Mariana: Since we now have Google and can search how to do anything, I probably wouldn’t need someone explaining it to me. The first time I got my period I didn’t ask my mom or anyone how to use a tampon. I figured it out on my own after Googling it and reading the instructions on the box...
Mariana: ...I can definitely see me doing the exact same thing with this.
Bibi: In college, I had a teammate who didn’t know how to use a tampon. Her period came suddenly, so I gave her a tampon, but she left the applicator inside. She went about her day like that…
Megan: You should put Sex Educator on your resume!
Bibi: Maybe not for pregnancy tests because you just pee on it and you wait, but for other feminine products I think having someone there might be nice.
Megan: Yeah, hopefully someone who’s been through it too.