The First Pregnancy Test

The First Pregnancy Test


Based on an ancient papyrus document in 1350 B.C., Egyptian women urinated on wheat and barley seeds to determine if they were pregnant or not.


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One of the first known ways of detecting a pregnancy comes from an ancient Egyptian document estimated to be from 1350 B.C. The papyrus document suggests a woman urinate on wheat and barley seeds. If the wheat sprouted, a female child was on its way, the ancients decreed, and if the barley sprouted, a male child would soon arrive. No sprouts meant no child was expected.

Strangely, researchers in the 1960s tested this method and found it had a grain of truth, according to the National Institutes of Health. Higher-than-normal levels of estrogen in pregnant women's urine, scientists speculated, may stimulate the germination of seeds (but were useless at predicting the sex of the child).

A woman's urine was used as a way to determine her pregnancy status during the Middle Ages, too, when so-called "piss prophets" believed that if a needle placed in a vial of urine turned to rust-red or black, the woman was probably pregnant.


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