A 60-year-old woman had no idea what the cause of her abdominal pain was until doctors removed the calcified foetus of a baby she didn’t know she had lost 36 years ago before it was finally ‘delivered’.

Lithopedion, the rare condition where a foetus turns to stone in the mother’s womb, affects 0.0054% of pregnancies, and there are reportedly only 330 known cases.

A horrific discovery

An anonymous 60-year-old woman living in a poor village in India made a horrific discovery when she reported to Lata Mangeshkar hospital with abdominal pains that had lasted for over two months. She also experienced a headache and a fever.

According to her medical report published in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, in 2015, the woman had an immovable lump on her lower abdomen. It turned out to be the mummified remains of a baby she didn’t even know she was carrying!

It’s rare but, it happens

Although Lithopedion is a rare condition affecting a small percentage of pregnancies, more cases are discovered in older patients.

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The same case report cited a 2001 incident in which the patient was named as Zahra Aboutalib. The 70-year-old woman from Morocco had to travel to France to have a mummified foetus removed from her womb. 

Zahara was due to give birth in 1955 but fled the hospital after witnessing another woman die while doctors performed a C-Section. 

According to the report, Zahara’s labour pains subsided, and she became used to carrying the extra weight around her abdomen. That was until she experienced abdominal pains and fever 46 years later. She underwent an operation to remove the “stone baby”.

Where do stone babies come from?

While in the unique case of Zahara, who knew she was pregnant and was due to deliver her baby, most stone babies are carried by women who did not know they were pregnant in the first place. 

Dr Natalie Burger, endocrinologist and fertility specialist at Texas Fertility Center told NBC that stone babies were primarily the result of ectopic pregnancies or unsuccessful pregnancies where the body for some reason did not eject the foetus. 

Because of a lack of medical care and regular medical attention she said women in rural areas or poor communities were most likely to have stone babies because it takes years after the failed pregnancy for a foetus to calcify and become a stone baby.

 

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