Today, pregnancy testing is incredibly easy and most people take it for granted, but not long ago in history, the pregnancy tests we have today were pretty much unheard of. People had to resort to… other methods. Going back to the days of the ancient world, women were just as excited about having answers to whether they were pregnant, but there really wasn’t anything in the way of a scientifically accurate test. For this reason, people have resorted to all kinds of zany methods, with varying levels of success.
10. The Ancient Egyptians Had a Pregnancy Test That Was Actually Fairly Accurate
As pregnancy tests go, the Ancient Egyptian method sounds strange at first, but it also has a lot of similarities to the methods used today. The woman would be instructed to fill a bag with wheat and a bag with barley and then urinate on those bags daily. If both germinated then it was clear that the woman was fertile and likely pregnant; if neither grew, then she was not. They also used this method to determine the gender to a decent level of likelihood. According to the method, if the wheat grew significantly more, then it was going to be a boy, and if the barley grew more than it would be a girl.
This may sound like another Ancient Egyptian magic trick that doesn’t really work, but it actually turns out that it is far more accurate than most would first imagine. A study done on the effects of wheat and barley shows that pregnant women’s urine is indeed much more likely than the urine of a non-pregnant woman to increase the growth of wheat or barley. However, the study was unable to find a link between the growth of either specific grain, and the gender of the soon to be born child.
9. Injecting Urine Into Live Animals was the Beginning of Modern Pregnancy Tests
Today women just have to urinate on a strip and they will know soon enough whether they’re knocked up, but the ease with which women can find out today is a fairly recent innovation. In the early half of the 1900s, the best method anyone had yet come up with was to inject live animals with urine and see what happens next. The theory, which was later proven to be correct, was that pregnant women’s urine has hormones that cause effects in many animals when injected. This allowed for doctors and researchers in the early days a gruesome, but effective way to test for pregnancy and study the matter further.
The South African Clawed Frog was the most popular because they could, when injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, lay eggs year-round and provide all kinds of interesting insight and answers as to whether women were pregnant or not. For those who feel it is cruel and wrong to inject live animals with urine in order to test for pregnancy, frogs were not their first choice. Mice were used before frogs, and before that rabbits were the go-to animal for pregnancy testing. Thankfully, the current tests we have mean we no longer need to mess with small animals to get results.
8. The Distaff Gospels Say a Woman Should Urinate on a Latch and See What Happens
Another strange pregnancy test comes from the distaff gospels, which are a collection of French medieval beliefs and ideas from the 15th century. The test method in this case probably gave them at least a little bit of indication even if it wasn’t particularly accurate, as it is based on principles that show they were getting close to how the whole thing worked, even if they hadn’t figured it all out yet. The method said that a woman should take a latch or key, and place it in a small basin. The woman was to then urinate until the key was entirely covered and leave it for several hours.
If the key or latch’s outline was damaged then the woman was considered to not be pregnant, and if there was no significant change or damage to the latch, they believed she was not pregnant. This test would likely have trouble with any kind of accuracy. While they were correct there are different properties in pregnant women’s urine, there isn’t any evidence that this particular method works. Even if it were partially effective, variances in latches and keys, and the different metals they may be made out of, would make it difficult for any kind of accuracy across the board.
7. The Ancient Greeks and Egyptians Believed Onion On or Near a Vagina Could Predict Pregnancy
The Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks are both said to have used a similar method at one time that involved onions, and would make things get a little weird rather quickly if anyone suggested it today. In essence, they would place an onion near or, more often, in the vagina of the woman who they were testing for pregnancy, and have her sleep overnight with it in place. If she woke up in the morning and had onion breath, she wasn’t pregnant; if she didn’t wake up with onion breath, she was.
The logic behind their idea is actually not terrible, especially for the time period they were living in. The idea is that the oils from onion and garlic are so strong that if a woman is not pregnant, they will eventually reach her respiratory tract and cause it to alter her breath. However, if she is with child, this obstruction could make it impossible for the effects of the onion to reach her respiratory tract and give her onion breath in the morning. It is hard to say how accurate this method would be, but the thinking behind it is, somewhat shockingly, fairly solid.
6. Testing for Pregnancy by Mixing Urine with Alcohol
Back in the Middle Ages, people simply didn’t understand science the way they do now. Most people still believed in the four humors and medicine was not at its strongest point, to say the least. Many doctors and researchers were convinced that urine played a huge role in determining the health of an individual, but they lacked the kind of analysis we have today, so they would simply look at someone’s urine in a flask to learn about their health, and to decide if a woman was pregnant.
In fact, one of the more common tests back then was simply to take a flask of a pregnant woman’s urine and look at it closely to glean whether you thought she was or not. Those who wanted to be more scientific would mix it with red wine, which supposedly made a difference to the color and hue of the urine of a pregnant woman. While these methods were extremely crude and often inaccurate, they still understood the most important basis for testing pregnancy – properly analyzing the urine.
5. The Test Where You Mix Urine with Bleach
Despite the fact that home pregnancy tests are now incredibly easy to access, extremely accurate, and cheap, some women who are pregnant want a quick way they can find out at home without anyone noticing that they are actually buying a pregnancy test. Due to the desire for clandestine testing, there is a tremendous amount of random suggestions on home pregnancy tests that will supposedly give you the answers you seek without the stare of the cashier.
One of the more dangerous ones is called the bleach test. Essentially, you take fresh urine and mix it with bleach – no actual measurements of any kind are suggested. Then, you watch the mixture for a little while and see what happens. If the mixture gets really fizzy then you are most likely pregnant; if it does not get fizzy at all, or only a little bit, you are not pregnant. However, it is strongly recommended that you never try this test, because even if it does work, it is asking you to create a chemical concoction that would be very dangerous to anyone, but especially to pregnant women. The main ingredient in urine is basically ammonia, which when mixed with bleach creates a form of tear gas. This method is dangerous and could make someone very sick.
4. People Used to Rely on Doctors to Analyze (and Even Taste) Urine in Order to Determine Pregnancy
Today, when doctors think that something is wrong with you, they almost always just test your blood. Testing other bodily fluids is relatively rare now in comparison, as doctors can usually determine most things with a blood test, or at least use it to point themselves in the right direction. Today, pregnancy tests are one of the most common areas where we still regularly test urine for medical reasons, but back in the middle ages, thing were very different. For a period in the middle ages, doctors believed that you could tell pretty much everything about a person’s health from the state of their urine.
These doctors would put the urine in a flask, and use it to analyze both pregnancy, and general health issues of all kinds. Some even claim that the iconic image of a scientist looking at a test tube is not someone staring at a vial of strange chemicals, but a throwback to when scientists made a serious habit of analyzing everyone’s urine. In some cases, the doctors would even taste the urine in order to make their diagnosis, which is almost certainly as disgusting as it sounds.
3. The “Pee on a Cup of Granulated Sugar” Test
This particular test is pretty silly, but at least it is harmless as far as ridiculous pregnancy tests go. The test says that you should take a few teaspoonfuls of sugar and put it in a cup, and then urinate on it in the morning. Those who believe in this method claim that the hormones in the urine of a pregnant woman will cause the sugar to clump up instead of properly dissolving, and that seeing this result will prove you are pregnant. If the sugar dissolves in the urine, you have little to no chance of being pregnant.
Of course, like many of these methods, there have been no scientific tests on it, and there are no measurements of how much of urine you should be mixing per parts of sugar, which makes it hard to take the accuracy seriously. Modern pregnancy tests are not even 100% accurate, and they have sophisticated scientific methods to get analysis down to the closest percentage point possible. Its accuracy should certainly not be relied on, as with no measurements, too much or too little urine could mess up the results. But, at the very least, it won’t cause you any harm.
2. The Dandelion Pregnancy Test
This test is a little bit strange. It tells you to collect dandelion leaves – not the flowers, just the leaves – and then like many of the methods, you are supposed to then urinate on the leaves in the morning. If the leaves don’t seem to show any significant change, then you are not pregnant. However, if the leaves show red blisters on them, that means that the pregnancy hormones are already in play and you are going to have a baby.
While this test is also pretty harmless, it leaves (no pun intended) much to be desired. Like the others, there is no indication as to how many leaves you need, or how much urine you need. There are also some who suggest it works better if you spread the leaves out on something like a baking sheet, and others who think it works better if you place them in the bottom of a cup. There is also the problem that very little is truly uncontaminated. Various chemicals present on the leaves could throw off the results, and washing them too thoroughly could do so as well.
1. One Early Scientist Proposed You Could Tell if a Woman was Pregnant by Looking Into Her Eyes
In the 16th century, a doctor named Jacques Guillemeau thought that urine analysis was just totally crazy and unnecessary. In his eyes, he had the best method for divining pregnancy and it was incredibly simple – all those other simpleton doctors and scientists just didn’t see his astounding genius. According to Guillemeau, all those pregnancy tests were unnecessary when you could just look into a woman’s eyes, and see if she was pregnant or not.
He claimed that in the second month, a woman’s eyes would change noticeably enough for an astute doctor to be able to observe, saying that she would have, among others things, smaller pupils, swelling of the veins in the corners of her eyes, and other unflattering descriptions. He also believed that the woman would be able to notice because her vision would change during the pregnancy, making it more clear to her that she was with child.