It is not surprising to learn that a wide variety of tests were developed throughout history in order to check if a woman was pregnant or not. Most tests were incredibly inaccurate, such as the Egyptian method of pouring a suspected woman’s urine on bags of wheat and barley. If the plant grew from the bags, then she was pregnant. In the Middle Ages, many physicians would determine if a woman was with child based solely off of how her urine appeared. Of course, many of their guesses ended up being wrong.
(Woman getting her urine analyzed by a physician. Photo credit: The Medical Book)
Around 1925, scientists discovered the hormone called human chorionic gonadotpin (HCG for short), which is only present in pregnant women after the fertilized egg attaches to the placenta (The History of the Pregnancy Test from Rabbit Tests to Websites.) After much creative discovery, scientists noted that HCG, when injected into juvenile rabbits, mice, and frogs, will cause the animal to go into ovulation and will also alter the appearance of the animal’s ovaries. People began injecting rabbits with their urine and killing them in order to cut open their abdomens to examine what their ovaries looked like (Pickover 334). This lead to the saying, “the rabbit is dead,” which indicated a positive pregnancy test. The saying doesn’t make much sense though, because all of the rabbits involved in the test were killed, regardless of whether or not the woman was actually pregnant. By the 1970s, advanced tests were developed that could detect the HCG hormone and provide an answer with a symbol. Women could take these tests easily at home, and no rabbits or other small critters had to be harmed in the process. Surely, rabbits are thankful for this advancement in modern medicine!
Until Next Time
Pickover, Clifford A. The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine. Sterling Publishing: New York, 2012.
“The History of the Pregnancy Test from Rabbit Tests to Websites.” Early-Pregnancy-Tests. https://www.early-pregnancy-tests.com/history