The Rabbit Test



If you talked with your mother or grandmother, the subject of how and when she realized she was pregnant may have been discussed. The phrase ‘rabbit test’ or ‘the rabbit died’ may have been used. This is what was used during most of the 20th century.

In 1927, Bernhard Aschheim and Selmar Zondek developed the rabbit test, also known as the ‘A-Z test’. The test consisted of injecting the woman’s urine into a young female rabbit. The rabbit was then examined over the next couple days. If the rabbit’s ovaries responded to the female’s urine, then it was determined that hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) was present and the woman was pregnant. The test was a successful innovation and it accurately detected pregnancy about 98% of the time.  

By 1931 an improved version of the ‘rabbit test’ came from Maurice Harold Friedman and Maxwell Edward Lapham and became known as the ‘Friedman test’ but followed the same basic method.

The rabbit test was widely used from the 1930s to 1950s. All rabbits that were used in the program had to be surgically operated on and were killed. It was possible to perform the procedure without killing the rabbits, but it was deemed not worth the trouble and expense. Today, modern science has evolved away from using live animals in pregnancy tests, but the rabbit test was considered a stepping stone during the middle of the 20th century.  

Photos: Rabbit Test with rabbits; maternity fashion of 1929 and maternity fashion in 1940s.

Related FamilyTree Blogs:

Three-Parent Babies

Banned Baby Names

The Sibling Never Known

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