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Surprising and Fascinating History of the Pregnancy Test

It’s so easy these days – if you suspect you are pregnant you can take a quick walk or drive to the closest convenience store. Pick up a box with a stick in it – go to the washroom and pee on the indicated end.  2 minutes later you have a relatively accurate result - pregnant or not pregnant.

The first home pregnancy test wasn’t developed until 1976 – women before then had to either rely on very ‘strange’ ways to tell them they are pregnant or wait to read any symptoms their body was giving them.

Click through to see the history of the pregnancy test – from 1350 BCE to today:


  • 1350 BCE 1 of 11
    1350 BCE
    One of the earliest documented methods of determining or detecting pregnancy dates back Egypt. The test would have the suspected pregnant woman urinate on wheat and barley seeds over the course of several days. "If the barley grows, it means a male child. If the wheat grows, it means a female child. If both do not grow, she will not bear at all."
    Image: jayneandd
  • Nineteenth Century 2 of 11
    Nineteenth Century
    There had not yet been any test developed to determine if a woman was with child. It was recommended that any sexually active woman keep observations for signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness.
    Image: Ambro
  • 1890s 3 of 11
    1890s
    Public Health Officials began encouraging women who suspect pregnant to visit their health care professional. New interest in the chemicals in the body developed within the scientific field and Ernest Starling named these chemical messengers "hormones."
    Image: Ambro
  • 1920s 4 of 11
    1920s
    Several different laboratories, independently working, discovered a substance that promotes ovary development and growth in rabbits and mice. They had begun to recognize that there was a specific hormone that was only found in pregnant women (now known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
    Image: Karen Shaw
  • 1927 5 of 11
    1927
    One of the first new tests was developed known as the A-Z test (named after Aschheim and Zondek who developed the test. To test for pregnancy, a woman's urine was injected into an immature rat or mouse. If the subject was not pregnant, there would be no reaction. If the woman was pregnant, the rat would show a reaction (like being in heat) despite its immaturity
    Image: ruudhein
  • 1930s-1940s 6 of 11
    1930s-1940s
    For the first time in history women were encouraged to seek the advice of their doctors at the first sign of possible pregnancy. Popular childbirth books at the time would encourage this instead of relying on 'old wifes' tales.
    Image: kangshutters
  • 1939 7 of 11
    1939
    Another way doctors would test for pregnancy would be to inject an African clawed toad with the urine of the suspected-pregnant woman into the dorsal lymph sac. If the woman was pregnant it would show the presence of five, six, or more eggs within four to twelve hours
    Image: Free Digital Photos
  • 1960 8 of 11
    1960
    A "hemagglutination inhibition test" for pregnancy was developed by L. Wide and C.A. Gemzell. The test used purified hCG mixed with a urine sample and antibodies directed against hCG. In a positive pregnancy test, the red cells clumped.
    Image: jscreationzs
  • 1970 9 of 11
    1970
    The first test became available to to doctors called the Wampole's two-hour pregnancy test. Taking only two hours to see results and could be used as early as 4 days after missed period.
    Image: Special Collections, Northwestern University Library
  • 1976 10 of 11
    1976
    First ever FDA approved home pregnancy test by Warner-Chilcott for e.p.t, the "Early Pregnancy Test" later known as the "Error Proof Test." e.p.t
    Image: American Journal of Public Health, January 1979
  • 2003 11 of 11
    2003
    The first digital home pregnancy test was developed taking away the two blue lines and replacing with an easy to understand "pregnant" or "not pregnant".
    Image: dongkwan

Read more from Devan on Accustomed ChaosUnspoken Grief
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Want more? Find me on Babble Kids!

More on Being Pregnant:
18 Provocative Pregnancy Advertisements and Campaigns
15 Crazy and Terrifying Birth Control Methods

sources: history.nih.govgerman.about.com
Image credit: Editor B via Flickr

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