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Discovering you’re pregnant today involves a simple trip to the bathroom with a stick in hand. But historically, physicians and patients have employed far more peculiar and perilous methods of detection.

Back in ancient Greece, women who suspected they were with child would insert half an onion into their vagina overnight. This was based on a very questionable understanding of anatomy – if you had onion breath in the morning, then the womb was open, and the scent wafted up through the body to the mouth. If no bad breath, then the womb was closed, and you were pregnant.

The ancient Egyptians had marginally more success peeing on wheat and barley seeds and certainly less chance of infection – if wheat sprouted it was a girl, if barley sprouted it was a boy and if neither did then you weren’t pregnant at all. Bizarrely a lab experiment in the Sixties found a 70% accuracy rate!

Home pregnancy tests became widely available in the late Seventies and in the intervening years have become incredibly reliable with the Suresign Pregnancy Test giving results six days early and boasting a 99% accuracy rate. But in the decades before, perhaps one of the most bizarre methods of all was the use of frogs.

Believe it or not, it was commonplace to inject pee into female frogs in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties to get a result. And no, this wasn’t some random experiment performed by a Frankenstein wannabe, it was a legitimate and well-documented test devised by British statistician and scientist Lancelot Hogben. He began injecting human hormones into the South African Clawed Frog in what became known as the Hogben Test.

Urine from a woman who suspected she was pregnant would be injected and results would appear after 12 hours. If the pregnancy hormone HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadtrophin) was present the frog would start to spawn. The test had an accuracy rate of 12% a week after the first missed period, 58% after the second week and 93% after the third week. It became the standard pregnancy test in the Fifties and Sixties.

A picture of endocrinologist Carlos Galli Mainini.

Endocrinologist Carlos Galli Mainini improved upon it by injecting urine into male frogs. He discovered they’d release more sperm, visible under a microscope, if the woman was pregnant and significantly the wait time was reduced from over 12 hours to just three.

The procedure was harmless to frogs who could be reused for another test after a fortnight but procuring and storing them for future tests could be problematic.

There was a huge increase in the export of the African Clawed Frog which contributed to its spread across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America and the prevalence of Amphibian Chytrid Fungus.

Largely unaffected by the fungus itself, it is thought the test frogs spread it to other amphibian populations, causing a dramatic global decline. In the UK, the frogs were kept in four centres but some escaped their clinical confines and made a new home for themselves in south Wales where they are still spotted today.

Thankfully, as scientists developed tests which look directly for HCG in urine samples, the use of frogs was abandoned but not before the damage to the world’s frog population was done – perhaps the ultimate in ecological revenge for all those years being used as egg-laying research subjects.

For a far easier pregnancy test that doesn’t involve the use of frogs or any other live animals you can rely on CIGA for unparalleled accuracy in rapid test diagnostics. Take a look at our products here or fill out our enquiry form to speak to a member of our expert team today.

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Author Suresign

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