Imagine, for a second, that you’re a woman living in the 1920s. (Think of all the great flapper fashion to perhaps get your mind off some of the more dismal women’s rights issues.) You suspect you may be pregnant but you’re not sure. What should you do?
Why, try a homemade test that’s made its way into local folklore, of course!
See, today’s popular home pregnancy tests — readily available at drugstores and proven to detect pregnancy with a certain amount of accuracy — weren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration until 1976.
In the “olden days,” women generally had to wait for telltale signs — a late period, morning sickness, fatigue, and an expanding belly — to reliably know their pregnancy status.
But rumors of homemade, or DIY, pregnancy tests that can tell you whether you’re expecting still circulate in the 21st century. A particularly popular one involves nothing more than common table salt, a couple of small bowls, and — ahem — the contents of your bladder.
How does this salty test work and how reliable is it? (Spoiler alert: Don’t get your hopes up.) Let’s dive in.
According to various sources — none of which have scientific credentials — you’ll need the following to do the salt pregnancy test:
- one small, clean, non-porous bowl or cup to collect your urine
- one small, clean, non-porous bowl or cup for your salt-pee mixture
- a couple spoonfuls of table salt
Ideally, use a clear bowl or cup for your mixture so you can better see the results.
The type of salt isn’t really specified beyond “common” on most sites. So we assume varieties like kosher salt — and that fancy pink Himalayan sea salt — are no-nos.
- First, place a couple spoonfuls of salt in your clear bowl or cup.
- Then, collect a small amount of first-morning urine in the other container.
- Pour your pee over the salt.
Here’s where things get even more ambiguous. Some sources say to wait a few minutes, while others say to wait a couple hours. A quick scan of popular TTC (trying to conceive) message boards reveals that some testers leave the mixture for up to 8 hours or more.
Check out any TTC online discussion on the salt pregnancy test, and you’ll likely see many posted pictures of salty pee in clear cups with questions like, “Is this positive?” That’s because no one seems exactly sure what they’re looking for and how to distinguish a positive from a negative.
But here’s what folklore says:
What a negative looks like
Supposedly, if nothing happens, it means the test is negative. You have a cup of salt(ier) pee.
What a positive looks like
According to various sources, a positive salt pregnancy test will be “milky” or “cheesy” in appearance. The claim is that salt reacts with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that’s present in the urine (and blood) of pregnant women.
Did you know?
Incidentally, hCG is what’s picked up by home pregnancy test strips — but enough of it has to build up in your system first, and your body won’t produce it right at conception. In fact, the fertilized egg has to travel to your uterus first, which can take up to a couple weeks.
That’s why your levels are mostly likely to be picked up by a urine test on or after the date of your missed period, despite the claims of “early result” tests.
So if you think you’re pregnant but see a big fat negative (“BFN” on TTC forums) on a home pregnancy test, then wait a couple days and test again — or get a blood test from your doctor.
The salt pregnancy test is best done as an all-in-good-fun experiment. It has no medical backing, scientific basis, or physician endorsement. There’s no reason to believe salt reacts with hCG. There are no published studies supporting this idea or the test in general.
You may get an “accurate” result — because it’s bound to match reality some of the time, just according to the laws of probability.
We had a hard time finding anyone who felt they had a positive salt test and turned out to be pregnant. That doesn’t mean this scenario doesn’t exist… but it speaks volumes about the credibility of this test.
One of our Healthline editors — and her husband — tried the test. Like many folks, they found the results hard to interpret.
Something definitely happened, so the tests results weren’t exactly negative. But “cheesy” or “milky” didn’t exactly describe the mixture either. For both of them, the mixture was more clear at the bottom and over time developed a cloudy, salt glob-ish appearance at the top. Our best guess is that this is to be interpreted as positive.
Rest assured, though: Neither our editor nor her husband is pregnant.
If you think you may be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test or talk to your doctor. If you’re just dying to test using salt, go for it — but don’t take the results too seriously, and use a tried-and-true method to confirm.
We wish you baby dust for your TTC journey!