Think Being Pregnant Is Bad Now?…Here’s How Terrible It USED To Be

I am not, nor will I ever be, a pregnant woman. And while I do think there’s some truth in the idea that men can suffer from womb envy, at the same time I am very glad I will never have to go through the things pregnant women do for just shy of a year.

But things could be a lot worse for pregnant women…and they were for a VERY long time. Let’s take a trip through the medically dubious and often blatantly sexist pregnancy myths of the past, shall we?

1. The wheat and barley pee test.

A document from ancient Egypt says that women in 1350 BCE would detect pregnancy by peeing on wheat and barley seeds. If the barley grows, it’s a boy! If the wheat grows, it’s a girl! While that might sound strange, the WEIRDEST part about it is that in the 1960s, they recreated this antiquated test. Researchers found that the urine of pregnant women DOES in fact promote growth, whereas the urine of men and non-pregnant women does not.

2. The stealing of youth.

According to an old myth, if a woman is pregnant with a girl, the child will sap her youth and beauty, but if the woman is pregnant with a boy, she will appear radiant and healthy. We now know this is, of course, stupid. Girl or boy, changing hormones in a woman’s body in the first trimester can cause her to break out. A mother’s daughter isn’t trying to pull a reverse-Hocus Pocus in utero.

3. Nobles were never pregnant…until the kid arrived.

From the 16th to the 20th centuries, noblewomen were hidden from the public eye as soon as their bump became visible. The thinking was that they were admired for their beauty by the doting peasant men, and a baby would really bum them out. Portraits of the pregnant noblewoman were painted, however, to prove the family’s fertility.

4. Pregnancy cravings are actually your baby’s cravings.


An old wive’s tale suggests that, for instance, if a woman craves pickles during her pregnancy, her baby is going to be SUPER into pickles.

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5. Medieval pregnancy diet: dry food and dry wine.

For no seemingly logical reason, medieval physicians believed that the proper diet while pregnant was dry foods like nuts and copious amounts of red wine. Please don’t listen to medieval physicians…ever.

6. Much like werewolves, babies come out during the full moon.

It was once a popular belief that during a full moon, babies were more likely to be born.

7. You think, therefore your baby is.

In the Victorian age, it was believed that the thoughts of pregnant women were somehow transferred to their babies, as if that’s how brains work. It was pretty much just an excuse to tell pregnant woman to stop complaining.

8. Corsets are TOTALLY good for babies.

Corset manufacturers in the Victorian era somehow convinced mothers-to-be that wearing a tight corset around their belly was good for them, as it held the baby in place. They may have been right, but it also hindered the baby’s food and oxygen intake.

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9. You can make your baby a pervert.

According to many men in the 20th century, if a man had sex with a pregnant woman, that child would then grow up to be a pervert.

10. Every pregnancy used to cost the life of at least one bunny.

If you thought the barley and wheat pregnancy test was weird, wait until you hear what we used to do in the early 20th century! Scientists were so jazzed about finding pregnancy hormone hCG, they decided to use it in the weirdest way. The prospective mother’s pee would be injected into young bunnies and mice. After five days, the rodents were killed and their ovaries were examined. An enlarged organ meant the mother was pregnant! So it was basically voodoo, folks.

So comparatively, things are a lot better for pregnant women now, but let’s be honest, it’s still not the best.

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