Whenever women nowadays suspect that they may be pregnant, they can always just run over to the drugstore and pick up a home pregnancy test. The most popular type that is used today is the digital home pregnancy test because not only is the accuracy rate high, but this test can tell you how far along you are.
You have to think how incredible it is that any kind of home pregnancy test can give you those kinds of details. These digital pregnancy tests are not a new thing either, and as science keeps evolving and advancing, there will be other fascinating ways to test for pregnancy, that would likely make the digital home pregnancy test look like it was from the ancient times. However, you'll be seeing that likely at the time when you are heading into the grandparenthood era. Or maybe sooner, you just never know since science comes up with new interesting stuff pretty much on a daily basis.
Just by knowing how cool these tests are, you probably have wondered how pregnancy tests have evolved over time, and what was involved as far as testing for pregnancy. It is a fascinating thing to know and learn about. And if you have been thinking about it, you are in luck because now you are about to find out 15 pregnancy tests that have been used throughout history - starting back from Ancient Egypt.
15 Drink Honey Before Bed
This way to test for pregnancy is quite ironic after knowing about how the Ancient Egyptians tested by using the upchuck test- considering what honey essentially is. However, I try to put that out of my emetophobic mind because I actually like honey and put it in my tea especially whenever I have a cold like I just did recently thanks to the chaotic weather that we have been having lately.
However, according to Essential Baby, Hippocrates, the physician who was known during the Ancient Greek era, which took place between 460 and 370 BC respectively said that pregnancy could be indicated through a bedtime drink. This drink consisted of honey, and women who missed a period were instructed to drink this honey-based drink before going to bed.
According to Hippocrates, if she had cramps and bloating in the night after taking in this drink, then this was a clear indicator that she was pregnant.
Whether there is any truth to it today is unknown because if you drink anything other than water right before bed, you could risk having bloating and cramps regardless. However, this way to test for pregnancy back in the day, way, way back in the day, was definitely interesting to learn about!
14 Do You Have Onion Breath?
There was a very nasty method that the Ancient Greeks used to determine whether a woman was pregnant or not, and it is a different kind of nasty if you compare it to the upchuck test (though not as bad in my opinion but you need to consider who this coming from) that was used by the Ancient Egyptians. Are you ready for this?
According to LiveScience, if a woman suspected she was pregnant, then she would go to a doctor who would then insert an onion or a pungent smelling root vegetable into her lady parts. She was then instructed to leave it inside her lady bits overnight.
If the woman had onion breath the next morning, she was indeed pregnant.
According to the same source, the lady bits are apparently more absorbent while a woman is pregnant. The doctors in Ancient Egypt knew that somehow, and figured this test would be accurate because of the compounds in these strong-smelling root vegetables like onions would be absorbed into the bloodstream. But there is no evidence showing that there really was any kind of accuracy to this test. It is one of the grossest in history most definitely, but still, the upchuck test wins over this one.
13 Do #1 On A Needle
During the Middle Ages, which was the time period from 476 AD to 1453 AD, there were new interesting ways that physicians back then tested for pregnancy. In fact, according to Essential Baby, there was the rise of a group of people who were called the #1 Prophets (actually the real name for them was crude but let’s leave it at #1 for here) that looked at how anything was affected by the urine of pregnant women. There were many approaches they took to do this.
Yes, that wasn't a new thing even back then because there was that wheat and barley urine test from Ancient Egypt that was already talked about. But the rise of testing stuff based on the urine of potentially pregnant women started in the Middle Ages. So one way that they tested for pregnancy was by instructing women who thought they were pregnant to urinate on a needle.
If the needle turned red or rusted, then that indicated there was indeed a pregnancy.
If the needle's color didn't change at all, then that meant that the woman was not pregnant at all. However, the needle wasn't the only metal tool that was used for these tests. The same applied for urinating on keys. If there were noticeable changes at all, then that meant there was a baby on the way.
12 Smell Burning Ribbon
We just covered The Renaissance Era and the common pregnancy test that was used at that time which was the eye test. Now The Renaissance Era is over, there was a new and test that was quite gross that was used during The Revolution Era which was from the 1700's to the mid-1800's.
According to Essential Baby, this strange test that I will talk about in a moment was used. It involved lots of #1 and was quite complicated. A woman who thought she was pregnant went to the doctor, and the doctor would tell her to urinate in a basin. Then the doctor would take a ribbon and soak it in the yellow liquid and keep it in the basin until it was very saturated. After that, the doctor would pull the saturated ribbon and then allow it to dry.
After the ribbon was completely dry, the doctor would then place it in front of the potentially pregnant woman's face and then burn it by lighting it on fire.
If the smell of the burning ribbon made her nauseous, then that meant she was indeed pregnant.
However, later on, there is no evidence at all showing that there was anything valid about this test.
11 Swollen, Droopy Eyes
Now we have moved on from common pregnancy tests from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, The Middle Ages to The Renaissance Era which followed the Middle Ages, and started in the 1400's and ended in the 1600's. There was a new pregnancy test that was used this time.
According to Essential Baby, a French physician that was from the 1500's named Jacques Guillemeau who made pioneer contributions in the obstetrics and pediatrics fields, as well as in ophthalmology came up with a new way to test for pregnancy. That was just by simply looking into the eyes of a woman who believed she was pregnant.
In fact, it was noted in Mental Floss that he had written, which was obviously translated from French to English the following: A pregnant woman gets deep-set eyes with small pupils, drooping lids and swollen little veins in the corner of the eyes.
That was certainly an interesting observation. Even though it was stated in the same source that as new discoveries were made about testing for pregnancy, this test was not at all accurate. However, he was right about the fact that eyes can change during pregnancy and that is why vision is affected constantly. Those who are pregnant and needed glasses beforehand may need a new prescription during their pregnancies if the changes in vision are more extreme.
10 The Upchuck Test
This particular test for pregnancy is horrifying to someone like myself since I am emetophobic and the only reason I didn't upchuck when I was pregnant with my daughter was that I didn't out of pure will- - another way that pregnancy was tested in Ancient Egypt was literally the vomit test.
According to Essential Baby, only certain foods would cause women to vomit that would indicate a pregnancy. The one type would be that a woman who thought she was pregnant was instructed to drink breastmilk from a mom to a boy. If she puked that up, then it was a sure sign that she was pregnant. Another way it was done was if she sat on a mashed mixture of beer and dates.
If she upchucked after eating, then it was also a sign that she was pregnant.
It doesn't indicate anywhere at all that nothing else eaten and puked up would indicate pregnancy. However, it really makes you wonder if that was the time when they were discovering that morning sickness was a thing? Because of the idea of eating any of that mentioned above could make anyone queasy, whether they were pregnant or not- and that goes for men too.
9 Do #1 On Wheat And Barley Seeds
You probably wondered how a pregnancy was confirmed during the Ancient Egypt era, which goes back to 1350 BC. According to Healthy and Natural World, there are hieroglyphic documents around that have been found by archaeologists which outlined the kind of pregnancy tests were used back then. Or rather, the kind of methods that were used to detect a pregnancy since there was no such thing as an actual pregnancy test, the kind that you are familiar with today.
Be prepared to hear right now how they tested for pregnancies back in Ancient Egypt. Women who figured that they could have been pregnant were instructed to urinate on wheat and barley seeds.
According to the Berlin Medical Papyrus which was noted in Crystal Links, either would have to grow if a pregnancy did happen.
If the barley seeds grew, then that meant that she was pregnant with a boy. If the wheat grew, then that meant that she was pregnant with a girl. If neither grew, then obviously she was not at all pregnant.
As weird as it may sound, even though gender can never be accurately predicted by how the seeds grow, a pregnant women's urine can cause seeds to grow so they had it right in Ancient Egypt somewhat anyway! However, now that you know this, you probably won't think of beer the same way again.
8 Did The Juice Change Color?
You already know that the #1 Prophets in the Middle Ages were looking for rusting or red needles to indicate pregnancy. They had other methods to detect pregnancies, and one of these methods were mixing a potentially pregnant woman's urine with wine- but don't worry, not to drink, yuck!
According to Essential Baby and LiveScience, the wine test method was a popular method back in the Medieval times to test for a pregnancy. And the thing is, this test could even be accurate today if it was tested by someone who knew exactly what to look for. That is because of the alcohol reacting to proteins in urine. Therefore, a pregnant woman's urine has a different component to it than the urine of someone who is not pregnant due to the presence of hCG, which was not even a thought back in the day!
However, if there were changes in the color of the wine mixed with #1, then that was a sure sign that pregnancy was in the cards.
Because things have advanced just a tiny bit, to say the least since then, this is just another pregnancy test that you would be amazed to hear about but again, for someone who knows what changes to look for by performing the same test could say it is an accurate way to test for pregnancy.
7 Study The Yellow Liquid
Another way the #1 Prophets tested for pregnancy in the Middle Ages was by simply observing the appearance of urine from a woman who believed to have been pregnant without mixing anything at all with it. Even back then, they may not have thought it was highly accurate since they had the need to mix needles and wine with it in order to see if there are any changes that would indicate pregnancy.
According to Essential Baby, if a woman's #1 was a clear, pale-lemon color and with had a cloud on the top, this indicated that this was a pregnancy. But since even back then they needed to use other methods to test for pregnancy- this method may not have been overly accurate. It is quite possible that someone with training and would know what to look for could see the difference between a pregnant woman's urine and a non-pregnant woman's urine (or a man's for that matter).
The fact that tests today involve more testing than just observing its appearance is a sign that looking at it carefully alone was never an accurate way to test for pregnancy.
6 The Key Test
Now we are moving towards the end of The Middle Ages, and there was another common method to test for pregnancy used at this particular time. And at this point, pregnancy tests were becoming extremely superstitious, even more so than before since superstition was extremely common during The Middle Ages, and in some cases, it is still today- but not when it comes to testing for pregnancy. Things have advanced just a little since then!
According to Essential Baby, during the end of The Middle Ages, which would be around the early 1400's give or take- if a woman thought she was pregnant, she was instructed to take a key or a metal latch and put it inside of a basin. After that, she had to urinate in the basin with the key or latch submerged in it. Then she would leave the key or latch inside of basin filled with #1 for about three to four hours.
After that time was up, the woman would then take the key out of the basin and get rid of the other stuff, and if the outline of the key was visible, then that meant she was pregnant.
This must have had to do with the fact that the acidity is altered in urine from a woman that is pregnant, but this test is not exactly reliable- especially by today's standards.
5 Using Animals
Now things are slightly more recent but still old and this test that I will be talking about was extremely inhumane. German scientists Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondek invented the first pregnancy test that was able to identify the pregnancy hormone- hCG in the blood of the potentially pregnant woman.
According to Essential Baby, the way this test worked was these doctors injected the urine into an immature female rabbit, mouse or rat.
If the pregnancy was to be confirmed then it would be indicated by the animal going into heat despite the fact that she was still too young for that.
However, if you think that alone is extremely inhumane- which it sure was, what they had to do after was even worse. They had to kill the poor animals in order to check their ovaries to see if they were in heat. It was very expensive and it took them a while to find out, and it was not reliable- and it was quite cruel!
However, these scientists tried to be a little more humane at some point later on and ended up injecting urine into female South African clawed frogs instead. If the woman was pregnant, the frog would end up laying eggs within 12 hours. But still cruel to say the least to do that, and thankful we have come far since then.
4 The Good Ol' Fashion Way
After the rabbit tests, and after doctors and scientists called it quits by testing for pregnancy by using frogs as well, during some time in the 1930's, popular childbirth books were telling women who believed they were pregnant to stop relying on old wives tales which had to be used in the past- way before any advancement of medical technology.
Instead, they were instructed to go to the doctor's office to get a blood test done to detect the presence of hCG since the pregnancy hormone was already discovered, according to NIH History.
That was truly the first sign of medical advancement when it came to detecting pregnancy because of the fact that is really the most reliable way to detect pregnancy by today's standards shows that they were finally on the right track- as far as detecting pregnancies were concerned. You know that for a fact since a blood test is the only way to detect pregnancy after going through an IVF treatment as well.
And shortly after this time is when you started seeing moms give birth in hospitals whereas in the past they were expected to give birth at home because of the fact it was safer and cleaner.
3 Take A Look At The Cells
Things were starting to get more advanced in the 1960's as the advancement of maternal and obstetric care was beginning to show. According to History NIH, a new pregnancy test at this time was developed which was the hemagglutination inhibition test. What they did with this one was using purified hCG by mixing it up with a urine sample, where the purpose was to see if the antibodies were directed against the hCG.
If the test was positive, then the red blood cells would clump up together, showing a particular pattern.
This test was fairly cheap and quick to do to determine a pregnancy, but later on, they found there were problems and no longer practiced it at a later time. That was because they later found that there were substances in the urine that could have given you a false positive if the antibodies reacted the same way as it did during an actual pregnancy.
During the rest of the decade according to the same source, this was a time when more was discovered about how hormones and antibodies worked. Therefore, when the 70's were nearing, doctors would use the knowledge they gained after these discoveries and put it to a much greater use then.
2 2 Hours later
Now we are in 1970 and you can see that things are really starting to advance quite a bit, but we are still a ways off from being able to go to the drugstore to buy yourself a home pregnancy test to get tested at home. But at this point, we are getting closer!
The Wampole’s two-hour pregnancy test was invented exactly in 1970, according to History NIH.
This involved your urine sample of course, and the test kit included a plastic rack, a bottle of hCG-antiserum, a bottle of cell suspension, as well as a bottle of control solution and two test tubes. Additionally, testers needed filter paper small and a small funnel or centrifuge, as well as syringes or clean pipettes, and of course a saline solution. All of this was done in a laboratory room. And this also involved a lot of waiting at the doctor's office, which was two-hours long where there were no such things as iPads and smartphones to help make the time fly by. However, at the time books and magazines were the only ways to help that happen.
This test could be done as early as four days after a missed period. Luckily things have also advanced quite a bit since because it would not be fun having to wait for two hours to find out if you were pregnant or not while being stuck there!
1 The Error-Proof Test
In 1976, that is when things started to really become modern, accurate and convenient all at the same time. According to History NIH, the first early pregnancy test which was later known as the Error Proof Test was established and approved by the FDA. It was the first one ever to be on the market in the USA but that was not until late 1977. The manufacturers worked with the FDA to make sure that all of the requirements of the 1976 Medical Devices Act were met.
According to the same source, the Error Proof Test was advertised in women's magazines such as McCall’s, Mademoiselle, Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, and Family Circle.
As you can see, this test was only beginning to evolve, and now things have advanced so much that even that kind of test is considered to be old school.
However, the 1970's was the time when obstetrics and maternity care were advancing quite a bit as that was when it was advertised as well that smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy was hazardous to the fetus.
Additionally, around a decade later, other discoveries were made such as the importance of folic acid in early pregnancy and so on as well. You can say that testing for pregnancy and knowing what to do to maximize your odds of having a healthy one has evolved quite a bit over time!
References: Crystalinks.com, HealthyandNaturalWorld.com, EssentialBaby.com.au, LiveScience.com, MentalFloss.com, History.NIH.gov