The Utterly Horrifying Way That Physician Employed To Test For Pregnancy

So you think you might be pregnant. Naturally, you saunter on down to the pharmacy, pick up a quick urinetestand voil: youll soon know whether you have indeed got a human developing inside you.

However, the pregnancy tests youre thinking of right now are relatively new inventions. So how on Ground did women originally test to see if they were expecting? As it turns out, older pregnancy tests were far more bizarre and surreal than youre probably imagining. So hold off on any food you might be about to consume things are going to get a little weird.

Its All About Number One

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So, first off, a little context. When a woman becomes pregnant, the hormone levels in her body change.During the onset of pregnancy, a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin( hCG) is produced by a section of the placenta. It acts with other parts of the body to help maintain the corpus luteum, a feature that develops each time a menstrual cycle begins. It also triggers the productionprogesterone, a multipurpose hormone that, among other things, helps maintainthe pregnancy, particularly in the early stages.

A contemporary pregnancy test looks for signs of elevated hCG in the womans urine any time from six days after fertilization occurs. They are incredibly accurate( 99 percent ), with very few false positive outcomes. Some look for multiple hormones produced during pregnancy, rather than simply hCG.

Urine Prophets

Image credit: Wine was once mixed with urine that are intended to detect pregnancy. easy camera/ Shutterstock

There was a time when the urine of suspected pregnant women was investigated not by medical doctors or high-tech pregnancy tests, but byprophets.In the 16 th century, European females were often foisted before these experts who, by peering deep into their sickly yellow rivers and considering the tones, hues and reeks of the peeing, claimed they could ascertain whether or not a newborn was on the way.

As part of this hands-on procedure, the economically more advanced oracles mixed urine with wine. Although they probably werent sure why it was happening, there was some scientific truth to this: Alcohol reacts with specific proteins produced during pregnancy, so the consistency of the peeing would change.

This technique of examining urine uroscopy dates back to ancient Babylonia, and it was brought to the fore in Byzantine medicine, part of the advances of the Eastern Roman Empire from the 5th century to the mid-1 5th century.

Pee Like An Egyptian

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Urine tests run style back, though, emerging long before the time of the Protestant Reformation or Copernicus. In the 14 th century BCE over 3,350 years ago ancient Egyptians had a technique all of their own.

During the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, married to the infamous Queen Nefertiti, Egyptians sprinkled a womans urine on wheat and barley seeds. If they budded, she was said to be pregnant. The wheat budded if she was pregnant with a girl; the barley if it was to be a boy.

Remarkably, this technique was shown to run, at the least to its implementation of detecting a general pregnancy. Although they probably didnt is well aware at the time, the hormones produced during pregnancy would actually encourage these seeds to sprout.

Wind Tunnel

Image credit: Onions once a medical instrument, apparently. Gayvoronskaya_Yana/ Shutterstock

Hippocrates, the father of modern medication, incorrectly assumed that you could detect pregnancy by inserting an onion into a womans vagina. If the womans breath smelled of onions the next morning, she wasnt pregnant: This was based on the idea that a womans womb would be open without a newborn growing inside it, thereby acting as a wind tunnel from rectum to mouth. If there was a baby-shaped obstruction in the womb, then her breath wouldnt smell of onions.

Suffice to say, this isnt medically accurate.

The Circle of Life

Image credit: Rabbits also scientific tools. Logra/ Shutterstock

The hormone hCG was identified by medical researchers for the first time in the 1920 s , opening up the possibility of detecting it to determine pregnancy status. The hi-tech peeing sticks we have today weren’t available, so what did they use instead? Unfortunately for certain representatives from the animal kingdom, they would provide a slightly grim detection tool in this regard.

A sample of the womans urine was injected into an immature female mouse. If the hCG hormone was present, the animal would go into heat essentially, becoming sexually active and ready for copulation. Initially, merely mice were used, dissected post-injection so that their ovaries could be examined; within a few years, rabbits were used instead. This test was named after the lead researchers: the Aschheim-Zondek, or -AZ, test.

Incredibly, this test was 98 percentaccurate. However, the results took several days to come in, and the test could not is the difference between hCG and a type of fast-growing cancerous tumor called a chorioepithelioma. Inadvertently then, this test also served as a cancer detection method presuming the patient wasnt also pregnant at the time.

In Plain View

Image credit: A Xenopus laevisfrom Zimbabwe. Wikimedia Commons; CC-BY-2. 0.

Advancing on this technique, a scientist named Lancelot Hogben in Cape Town, South Africa, spent his time experimenting on clawed frogs with various human and non-human hormones. The benefit of amphibians over mice and rabbits in this regard is that their eggs are much easier to examine.

As it turned out, the South African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis , was particularly useful for human pregnancy tests. If the female was injected with a pregnant girls urine, it would lay eggs before the end of the day. Conversely, the male would respond by producing sperm. This far more rapid and accurate test spread through Europe in the 1930 s, and it became the standard bearer.

Radioactive Targets

Image credit: The science of peeing. Gotzila Freedom/ Shutterstock

In 1976, a drug manufacturer company called Warner-Chilcott developed a $10, two-hour testing kit that females could use in the privacy of their own home no frogs necessitated. The test was9 7 percentaccurate for positive results, cheap and easy to use.This revolutionized the industry, and served as the basis of the pregnancy tests people use across the world today. This in itself was an advancement from the early 1970 s, where radioactive labels were used to pick up on the hCG hormone.

So, although the technology has come a long way since Queen Nefertitis time, we still do detect pregnancy by peeing on things.

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