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Determining Pregnancy & Fertility in Ancient Times

Everyone knows how to test for pregnancy or fertility in modern times. An appointment with your doctor can determine your fertility. A trip to the pharmacy store, pay some money and you get a test kit, pee on it and magic happens! That’s about the easiest, fastest and most accurate method you can rely on to determine pregnancy and if you are fertile enough to conceive or not. Pregnancy Test Kit. (Image from Google)


But, how about women in the ancient times – Egypt & Greece? How are they supposed to know if they are pregnant or not? How will they ever know if they are fertile?


On behalf of the ancient Egyptians & Greeks, this post will be answering these 3 questions:

  1. How do women in ancient times determine or confirm their pregnancy?
  2. How to determine fertility in women in ancient times?
  3. Are the methods/tests for pregnancy & fertility scientifically reliable?




One of the earliest written forms of records from the Berlin Medical Papyrus in 1350 BCE suggests that Egyptians women should do a urine-based pregnancy test. It is stated that a woman who suspected herself to be pregnant should pee on wheat or barley seeds for several days. If both seeds did not grow it means that the woman is not pregnant. However, if the barley seeds grew, it means that the woman is expecting a male child. If the wheat grew, it means the woman is expecting a female child.


Barley & Wheat. (Image from Google)

Sounds absurd? Maybe not! Scientists and researches did a testing in 1963 and found that the pregnant women urinating on barley and wheat had indeed promoted growth and it had 70% accuracy in determining pregnancy. That is oddly high. Scientist thought that the elevated growth of the barley and wheat had something to do with one of the components found in pregnant women urine. However, it is not proven that the barley or wheat can determine the gender of the child so that part of the pee test is untrue!


There were 2 other methods named in the same papyrus to determine pregnancy. One of the methods was drinking the breast milk of a mother who had a son and if the woman vomited, she is pregnant. Another method was to get the woman to sit on a pile of mashed dates and beer and if she vomited, she is pregnant.


Is this scientific? NO! Maybe all those vomiting may detect early signs of pregnancy – morning sickness. But then again, the tests are all pretty gross that even men could vomit from them!



The Greeks had a less gross test for pregnancy! It is the Honey Test. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician (460-370 BC) believed that beverages made with honey could determine whether a woman is pregnant. Women were asked to drink a beverage made with honey before sleeping. If she had a bloated stomach or cramps at night, she is definitely pregnant.


Honey. (Image from Google)

So how scientifically sound is the honey test? Not sound at all. Some people just have a bad stomach or weak digestive system. Men can go to bed feeling bloated or cramped after a honey drink too, this shows that the honey test is inaccurate in determining pregnancy!


This brings us to the final question of how the ancient Egyptians and Greeks determined whether a woman is fertile enough to be pregnant?


Both the Egyptians and Greeks believed in the same fertility test. The fertility test involved inserting a clove of garlic or an onion into a woman’s vagina.

Wait...What? (meme image from google)

If the woman’s breath reeked of garlic/onion then she must be fertile! The Egyptians and Greeks logic behind this test is simple. They assumed that every part of the human body is linked, so if the breath smells, it means that there is no blockage at the womb, which allows the smell to travel from the vagina all the way up to the woman’s mouth.


Garlic & Onion

So, how accurate is the garlic/onion fertility test? No scientific basis, every person’s breath differs and the smell of garlic/onion breath could be acquired through food. This means that a man or a woman that is not pregnant can have garlic/onion inserted into the anus (for men) or vagina (for women) can also have garlic/onion breath from the food they ate last night. It does not mean that men could conceive or women wombs were unblocked or blocked. IT DOES NOT DETERMINE ANYTHING ABOUT FERTILITY CASE CLOSED.



To conclude, I thank technology for its advancement that I do not have to wait several days to determine my pregnancy unlike the Egyptians (Need to wait for the Barley/Wheat to grow out) or go through horrid and disgusting tests to determine my fertility. (Nobody wants to have an onion/garlic inserted into their body other than the mouth.)