These historic pregnancy tests will make you grateful for the wee stick.

The modern home pregnancy test is a nifty piece of technology. Two minutes is all it takes. And it can all be done and dusted without having to leave the comfort of your own bathroom.

Even though it’s a bit awkward (sometimes even girls have directional issues), the process of peeing on a stick sure beats what our sisters in Ancient Egypt had to endure.

In order to determine pregnancy in the early stages, these women were required to get very intimate with onions.


Mental Floss has compiled a list of strange historical pregnancy tests and we’ve decided to share with you some of our favourites (you can read the full list here).

Interestingly, the majority of these tests do involve urine, suggesting that our ancient ancestors really weren’t far off the mark. Although they were much more willing to get down and dirty with the animal, vegetable and mineral department than we’re required to today.

1. Wheat and barley test. In Ancient Egypt, circa 1350 BC, women were asked to urinate on wheat and barley seeds over the course of several days, with sprouts appearing if the woman was pregnant. Apparently the test was so accurate that it could predict the gender of the baby – wheat sprouts indicated a girl, while barley suggested a boy.

It sounds far fetched but modern science indicates it actually works:

In 1963, a laboratory experimented with the wheat and barley test and found that, 70 percent of the time, the urine of pregnant women would cause the seeds to sprout, while the urine of non-pregnant women and men didn’t.

2. The onion test. If you happen to enjoy eating onions, we advise you to skip to the next point on the list. Because you’ll never think of this eye-watering vegetable in the same away again.


This smelly procedure, common in both Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, involved a woman inserting an onion – or another strong-smelling bulbous vegetable – into her vagina and leaving it there overnight. So how exactly did it work?

If her breath smelled of onions the next morning, she wasn’t pregnant; this was based on the idea that her womb was open, and wafting the oniony scent up to her mouth like a wind tunnel.

If she were pregnant, then the womb would be closed, so no wind tunnel.

No word on whether this method has been proven with modern science, but perhaps that’s a good thing. Our take? Onions are for making spaghetti sauce taste better and not for inserting into the vagina.

3. The frog test. Not even our little amphibian friends were safe in the ruthless pursuit of pregnancy detection. This one is truly horrifying. So take a deep breath before you read on.

In the late 1940s, it was discovered that injecting the urine of a pregnant woman into a live frog or toad would cause the creature to produce eggs within 24 hours. Fortunately, the animal usually survived, although it could then be used for subsequent tests.

Wait, it gets worse. Apparently this test was an improvement on an earlier test developed by two German scientists in the 1920s. They concluded that the urine of pregnant women contained a hormone (now known as hCG) that appeared to be linked to ovary growth.

And as a result, early experiments on sexually immature rodents led to the birth of the (5)

Viva la pee stick.

Don’t forget to check out Mental Floss for the rest of the list.

Have you heard of any other strange pregnancy tests? Has this article turned you off onions for life?

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