The History of the Pregnancy Test

The History of the Pregnancy Test

How the Pregnancy Test Began

To some people, the news that they are going to be a mum is welcomed with a lot of joy, however, to others, it can be a source of anxiety especially when they hadn’t planned for it. Either way, a pregnancy test is one of the tensest moments in a woman’s life. Nowadays, the process is as simple as peeing on a stick, but have you ever wondered how and when pregnancy testing started?

The History of Pregnancy Testing

Did you know that as early as 1300 BC, the ancient Egyptians carried out pregnancy testing? There is a papyrus described test whereby a woman was supposed to urinate on wheat and barley seeds for several days. The Egyptians believed that if the Barley seeds grew, it was a male child and that if wheat grew, it was a female child. If none of the plants grew, there was no pregnancy. A scientific study was conducted in 1970 in an attempt to approve or refute the theory and it was found to be correct 70 percent of the time.

The Middle Ages

During the middle ages, most people used visual aspects of the urine to test for pregnancy. In the fourteenth century, the major pregnancy tests givers were the piss prophets who claimed that they could diagnose any medical condition by just looking at the color of urine. There were also tests that involved mixing urine with wine. These tests have proved to have some substance – because alcohol does react with certain proteins in urine to elicit particular results.

The 19th Century

This is the period when the biggest steps were taken with regards to unravelling the way the body functions during pregnancy. Towards the end of the century, scientists asserted that the body had chemical messengers that controlled all the functions of the body. These were called hormones. During this time, the only early pregnancy test women had were symptoms such as morning sickness.

The Period Between 1900 and 1970

Studies into the concept of hormones intensified. Doctors were able to identify and isolate one hormone that was very active during pregnancy. They called this progesterone. A test was developed in 1927. It was supposed to detect the presence of a pregnancy by detecting the presence of hCG or progesterone in the urine. In this test, the urine of a woman would be injected into a rat, if the rat showed signs of being on heat; the test was concluded as positive. On the other hand, if the rat did not change its behaviour, the pregnancy tests were concluded to be negative.

 1970 to the Present

Studies about hormones intensified during this period. This was due to the fact that abortion had been legalised and both women and doctors wanted to detect a pregnancy as early as possible. By 2003, there were home pregnancy tests that would indicate either pregnant or not pregnant instead of the traditional blue line.

As you can see, the concept of pregnancy tests has really come a long way. Starting from the time when a woman had to urinate on seeds to the present where you can get a verdict sitting in your bathroom, it is safe to say that this is one technology that has grown and developed very well.

At, we have the UK’s best selection of fertility and pre-conception products – including our famous pregnancy and ovulation tests. All orders are posted out on the day we receive them, packaged discreetly to maintain your privacy. Give us a try when you are trying to conceive!

Photo Credit: “Good News!” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by jhayworth

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2013.

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