The history of the pregnancy test

Filed under: Just For Moms, Your Pregnancy

You probably know a little something about the old school pregnancy test devised in the 1920's. A woman's urine was injected into an immature mouse, rat, frog or rabbit. If the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) was present, the animal would go into premature heat. Unfortunately, the only way to confirm the result was to dissect the animal. This is the source of the euphemism "the rabbit died", but in reality the rabbit (or frog, mouse, rat) was always destroyed after the test.

This hormone testing on animals is pretty well known, but did you ever wonder how pregnancy tests were performed in ancient times? Me either, but Mental Floss has an interesting article on the subject. Ancient Egyptian women were doing the equivalent of peeing on a stick long before EPT modernized the idea. The sticks were actually wheat and barley stalks and the diagnosis was made by seeing which one grew. If the wheat grew, you were having a girl. If the barley grew, you were having a boy. If nothing grew, you needed to go back try, try again. (A 1963 study found this method to be 70% accurate!)

Pee was still key even in the Middle Ages. Sometimes prophets could tell just by looking at it (clear pale lemon color leaning toward off-white, having a cloud on its surface) or by mixing it with wine and looking for certain reactions. My favorite method, however, has to be the peeing on a ribbon and burning it. If the smell made the woman nauseous, she was likely feeling nauseous for two.

Today, we are still peeing on things to find out if we're pregnant, but we have sure come a long way. We can do it ourselves in the privacy of our own homes and best of all, no animals need give their lives for the cause.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.