History of Science of Pregnancy Tests, by Kelechi Deca
According to one papyrus text from around 1400 B.C.E., in order for a woman to determine whether she was pregnant or not, all she had to do was urinate in two different bags — one filled with barley and the other with wheat.
If the grain in either bag sprouted after being peed on, the woman was definitely with child and could start planning accordingly.
However, to find out the sex of her new child, the woman simply had to wait and see which of the grains sprouted first. If the barley sprouted faster, the baby would be a boy; if the wheat sprouted first, it would be a girl child.
According to the National Institute of Health, a study conducted in 1963 found that this method of determining pregnancy is accurate about 70 percent of the time — not bad, ancient Egyptians! — although it wasn’t accurate at all when it came to determining the sex of the baby.
Modern pregnancy tests rely on proteins that can detect a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), but scientists speculate that this old-timey test worked so well because elevated levels of estrogen in a woman’s urine might have promoted seed growth.