The Pregnancy Test as Plot Device

Here’s a clip from a mini essay I wrote for The Atlantic: 

“Though pregnancy is a timeless source of narrative conflict, pregnancy tests on the screen are relatively new. Over-the-counter, take-home indicators didn’t hit the shelves until 1988. Before that, aside from obvious symptoms—missed periods and morning sickness—early verification was harder to come by. The 1927 A-Z test (named for inventors Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondak) involved injecting a woman’s urine into an immature mouse or rat. If the rodent went into heat, the woman was “in the family way.” In frogs and rabbits, the same procedure incited ovulation. While frog eggs are expelled from the body and easily visible, injected rabbits had to be cut open and inspected, a practice that gave rise to the euphemism “the rabbit died.”

Check out the whole thing here!


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