Pregnancy tests are now as simple as they've ever been with a tiny stick. Chemicals in the stick can detect a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). However, things were not the same in the 1960s as they are now. To test for pregnancy, you had to make an appointment with a doctor, have a urine sample, and wait for a couple of hours for the results.
Pregnancy Tests During 1920s-30s
The Aschheim-Zondek test, which was the best available pregnancy test for HCG in the 1930s, was much slower, less reliable, and plain awful. This “A-Z” test involved injecting the urine of a woman into many female mice, rats, or rabbits, waiting a few days, then killing the rodents and testing their ovaries for enlargement. An English lab was running 6,000 A-Z experiments per year by 1935.
The "Hogban Test"
The “Hogben test” began in 1930, when British biologist Lancelot Hogben started investigating the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis, which he described as a “godsend” for hormone research. Hogben discovered that Xenopus frogs were sensitive to hormone changes while teaching in South Africa. According to a historical review published in the International Journal of Developmental Biology by scientists John B. Gurdon and Nick Hopwood, injecting a healthy frog with pituitary extracts from another could cause ovulation in a matter of hours.
How Was The Pregnancy Test Performed
The “Hogben test” was pretty easy. They collected a female’s urine and injected it under the skin of a female Xenopus, raw and untouched. Then if the woman was pregnant, the frog developed a cluster of millimeter-sized black-and-white spheres between five and 12 hours later. The outcomes were dependable.
A later report also told that rabbits were used after wards instead of mice. People came to believe that the rabbit would die if the test results were positive. The rabbits, like the rats, had to be dissected to check the size of their ovaries, so they still died. This meant that pregnancy testing was time-consuming, costly, and bloody. Every year, around 6,000 rabbits were sacrificed at a Pregnancy Diagnosis Station operated by a friend of Hogben’s.
The Modern Day Pregnancy Test
At-home pregnancy tests became popular in the 1970s, with about 20 million test kits sold each year. Later in 1988, the modern-day stick or kit was made, which is incredibly easy to use, time-efficient, and 99 percent accurate. Women nowadays normally discover they’re pregnant after skipping a period in the comfort of their own bathroom, without the help of a doctor. However, until the 1950s, women could not definitively confirm pregnancy until several months into the pregnancy, when they began to visibly gain weight or felt the baby move. Women relied on doctors to tell them they were pregnant until the 1970s.