A Simple and Reliable Method for Early Pregnancy Detection in Inbred Mice

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2015 Jul;54(4):368-71.


The study of normal and abnormal development typically requires precise embryonic staging. In mice, this task is accomplished through timed matings and the detection of a copulation plug. However, the presence of a plug is not a definitive indicator of true pregnancy, particularly in inbred mice, in which false-pregnancy rates have been reported to be 50% or higher, depending on the strain. This high rate poses considerable financial and animal use burdens because manipulation of the putative dam is often required before pregnancy can be confirmed by palpation or visual inspection. To address this problem, we examined weight gain in a population of 275 wildtype C57BL/6J mice (age, 12 wk or older) between the time of plug detection and during early embryogenesis (gestational days 7 to 10). In this population, assessing pregnancy according to the presence of a plug alone yielded a 37.1% false-positive rate. Pregnant mice gained an average of 3.49 g, whereas non-pregnant mice gained only 1.15 g. Beginning at gestational day 7.75, implementing an optimal weight-gain discrimination threshold of 1.75 g reduced the false-positive rate to 10.5%, without excluding any pregnant mice. These results were consistent with those from younger (age, 8 wk) wildtype C57BL/6J and FVB/NTac female mice, suggesting broad applicability of this method across age and strain. Our findings provide a simple and effective method for reducing animal use and study costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred Strains / physiology
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Weight Gain*