27
$\begingroup$

A comment by Organic Marble on the question Is it possible to get pregnant through natural means in space? includes a link to PREGNANCY TEST (ISS MED/3A - ALL/FIN) which seems to indicate there is a pregnancy test kit on the ISS.

As indicated in the original question mammals do not seem able to get (or stay) pregnant in the ISS.

Why is the test kit there? Has it ever been used? What is the procedure if the results where positive?

$\endgroup$
4
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ I would guess that even if you can't get pregnant in space, you can always get pregnant on earth and then go to space. Pregnancy tests really only work from about 6 weeks, so this can happen more easily than you'd think $\endgroup$
    – neelsg
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 11:04
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ There is also always the Jurassic Park woo around not being able to get pregnant in space that goes something like: Life finds a way... $\endgroup$
    – neelsg
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 11:05
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ So far there is only observed evidence that rats seem to have trouble getting pregnant, but so far it has not been tested with humans (at least nobody wants to admit to have joined the 250 mile high club). $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 22:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hm. What is the protocol if the test comes back positive? Toss the guilty party back to Earth on the next mission that comes along? $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 6:42

2 Answers 2

36
$\begingroup$

The test kit is there in case a female crewmember suspects that she might be pregnant. Your second question will never be answered because of US medical privacy laws. For the 3rd question, I have not found a documented answer, but I suspect a medical evacuation would be in order, due to the unknown developmental effects on the unborn child. This would result in the return of one three person crew (two of whom, I suspect, would be grumpy).

$\endgroup$
12
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ There's "supportive" in the sense of "yes, this obviously needs to be done, and we're obviously going to get in the Soyuz and go home early", and there's supportive in the sense of "no, it's no problem at all that after six months of preparation for this mission we're abandoning our experiments and going home." $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 16:54
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Years of preparation. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 16:55
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @KennyPeanuts: I think the point is that they wouldn't evacuate just one person; they'd have to evacuate all three members of the crew. Even if the one astronaut who needs to be evacuated is qualified to fly and land the Soyuz capsule alone, leaving the station short one Soyuz is probably unacceptable. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 17:56
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ When diagnosing some sets of symptoms or complains, a pregnancy test may be indicated. The test is there simply because who would want to deny it to the physician on the ground trying to make a diagnosis? It't not like it's very heavy. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 14:37
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that Space Adaptation Syndrome can resemble morning sickness. Given a female astronaut experiencing nausea and fatigue, having a simple test to rule out (or confirm) pregnancy would be invaluable. $\endgroup$
    – Kengineer
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 19:57
2
$\begingroup$

A pregnancy test is essential in working up abdominal pain in a woman of child bearing age. An ectopic pregnancy (implantation in the Fallopian tube or elsewhere) is potentially fatal without emergency surgery.

I consider pregnancy testing as essential diagnostic capability on ISS. A positive test in the presence of abdominal pain would necessitate emergency medical evacuation.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ ADUM (Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity) experiments were performed on ISS in 2004 during expeditions 9 and 10. Ultrasound being one of the tools used to check for ectopic pregnancy. I have not heard if anything has been done since then with ultrasound on ISS. I also don't know if any experimental attempts to do any type of lab work on blood has been done on ISS. Seems like both capabilities will eventually be needed for long term stays in space to support telemedicine. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ @StevePemberton ... Ultrasound and blood work would both enhance diagnosis in space. But a urine HCG pregnancy test gives vastly more diagnostic power for its mass. A negative ultrasound would not rule out an ectopic pregnancy. 5% of ectopics are not in the fallopian tube and can be hard to localize and interpret, even for experienced operators. So abdominal pain with a +ve pregnancy test and a -ve ultrasound still needs evacuation $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @StevePemberton ... On the other hand, if the ultrasound can localize the pregnancy to the uterus, an ectopic pregnancy can be (almost) ruled out and unnecessary evacuation prevented. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Woody - that's what I was assuming and why I mentioned the possibility of ultrasound on ISS. But I'm guessing if ultrasound doesn't show anything they would need other means of diagnosing, which may or may not currently be possible on orbit. Or maybe technically possible but not implemented on ISS since they are able to do relatively quick medical evacuations if needed. And not always "emergency" like in a few hours or days, but in less urgent cases by shortening an increment to get the crewmember home sooner than originally scheduled while avoiding an extended gap before the next crew arrives $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 15:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.