Top 10 Historical Methods of Detecting Pregnancy

By (biologist & science teacher) and (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 06/30/2015

Before there were pregnancy immunological tests, women had other home techniques for determining whether or not they were expecting a baby. Some methods had a scientific explanation, others less so.

Learn about the ten most commonly used techniques in history.

Provided below is an index with the 11 points we are going to expand on in this article.

Bolt test

This test consisted of putting a bolt in the woman's urine. After four hours the urine was dumped. If the bolt had left marks in the container, it indicated that the woman was pregnant.

Oil drops

It is based on urinating into a glass and pouring two drops of oil into it. If the drops attracted each other and merged into a single zone, it meant that the woman was pregnant. If, on the other hand, they remained separate, the test was negative.

Wheat and barley test

This test was originated in Ancient Egypt. Women urinated on these seeds for days. If wheat germinated, she was expecting a girl, but if it was the barley, she was expecting a boy.


According to an Egyptian Papirus, the times that a woman has vomited should be counted after having consumed a mixture of beer and dates. If she vomited again after a short period of time, it meant that she was pregnant.

5. Onion test

In the Ancient Greece, Hippocrates declared that it was possible to determine whether a woman was pregnant or not by inserting an onion into her vagina. If her breath smelled like onion the following day, she was still not pregnant.

Urine colour

A group of European men of the 16th century stated they could identify if a woman was pregnant by analyzing the colour of her urine. Wine and alcohol were mixed with the urine to see the results. This was because alcohol reacts to some proteins of the urine from pregnant women.


In the 16th century the doctor Jacques Guillemeau affirmed that he could guess by looking a woman directly in her eyes if she was pregnant. Guillemeau, author of an important ophthalmology treatise, assured that a pregnant woman has small pupils, droopy eyelids, and small veins in the corner of the eye from the second month of pregnancy onwards.

Blue parts

When a woman is betwewen 6 and 8 weeks pregnant, the cervix, the lips of the vagina, and the vagina itself acquire a bluish hue because of blood flow. The sign was noticed by the American doctor Lee Chadwick, who announced his discovery to the American Gynecological & Obstetrical Society in 1886.


In the 1920s, German scientists injected small amounts of urine into female rats two times per day on three successive days. After 100 hours, rats were slaughtered and its ovaries examined. If their ovaries were enlarged, there was an 80% chance that the woman was pregnant.

Frog test

It was used until the 60s, when immunological methods appeared. The urine of a patient was injected into a frog. A pregnant woman produces the HCG hormone, which would trigger amphibian ovulation. If the frog spawned after 24 hours, the test was positive.

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 Iván Ferrer Durbà
Iván Ferrer Durbà
Biologist & Science Teacher
Bachelor's Degree in Biology by the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Secondary Education and Teaching by the University of Portsmouth. Teacher of Sciences at multiple British schools and high schools. More information about Iván Ferrer Durbà
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
B.A., M.A.
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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