A mother died of severe malnutrition after carrying a fetus for around nine years inside her body.
The woman, originally from the Congo, visited doctors in New York complaining of stomach cramps, indigestion and gurgling after eating.
Scans revealed that the 50-year-old woman had a “stone baby”, a calcified fetus, compressed her intestine, which was attributed to a miscarriage nine years earlier.
The rare phenomenon, which has only been recorded less than 300 times, occurs when a fetus developing outside the womb dies during pregnancy and is not released from the body.
The patient refused treatment, saying she believed her state of health was related to a “spell” someone cast on her in Africa.
The woman, whose name has not been identified, had been carrying the fetus for nine years. After her resettlement in the US, her mother was offered the surgery, but she refused. She eventually died of malnutrition caused by the fetus blocking her small intestine.
Shown above is a scan of the calcified fetus inside the mother. She died 14 months after coming to the US due to severe malnutrition.
The woman died 14 months after arriving in the United States.
Doctors said that he died of severe malnutrition or starvation.
In these cases, death can eventually be caused by tissue breakdown leading to cardiac arrest or cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. Other causes include an infection, caused by a weakened immune system.
For this woman, the ‘stone baby’ continued to compress the intestine. This caused blockages, meaning her body was no longer able to absorb vital nutrients, leading to starvation.
Dr. Waseem Sous, an internal medicine expert at SUNY Upstate Medical University who reported the case, said the patient “rejected intervention for fear of surgery and opted for symptom control.”
“Unfortunately, he died of severe malnutrition in the context of recurrent intestinal obstruction from lithopedion and continued fear of seeking medical attention.”
The fetus, which would have been the woman’s ninth child, stopped developing inside her at 28 weeks.
But instead of miscarrying, she suffered from the condition known as lithopedion.
This is where the dead fetus calcifies after being attacked by the immune system. At this point, it was too large to be reabsorbed by the body.
The condition has only been recorded 290 times, with the first dating back to France in 1582.
Some mothers report severe symptoms as a result, but others can live for decades without suffering any signs of the condition.
The sad story was revealed in a medical report in the magazine. BMC Women’s Health this week.
The mother’s early life had seen her uprooted twice, moving from the Congo to Burundi and then to Tanzania due to conflict.
In Tanzania, she settled and had eight children who were born naturally, although three died shortly after childbirth.
During her ninth pregnancy, she visited a doctor’s clinic in a refugee camp after noticing that her baby was no longer moving.
The doctors there told her that the baby had no heartbeat and recommended that she try to pass it naturally at home and if this didn’t work, come back in two weeks.
She followed the instructions, but when she returned to the clinic she was greeted by people outside accusing her of ‘evil work’ and ‘killing the baby’.
This prompted the mother to run home and pray, before deciding that she would not seek medical help.
She then carried the dead fetus for nine years and had no contact with doctors until her health check six months before she was resettled in the United States.
When the mother arrived in the US, she was taken for a CT scan that revealed an obstruction in the small intestine and compression of major veins.
It also showed a mass within the abdomen that was approximately six by eight inches and contained a skeleton.
Doctors offered her surgery to remove the mass, but she refused, saying the condition was due to a curse someone had placed on her in Tanzania.
WHAT IS A ‘STONE BABY’?
Lithopedion, which is Greek for “stone baby,” is so rare that there are only about 300 documented cases in history.
Stone babies can occur as a result of an ectopic pregnancy, or a pregnancy in which the fetus develops outside the mother’s womb.
When this happens, the deceased fetus has no way to leave the body.
Rather than allow the fetus to rot inside the abdomen and expose the mother to possible infection, her body mummifies it.
Calcification is essentially an accumulation of salts that the human body uses as a barrier against possible infections.
He added to the doctors: ‘I’ll let you know when it’s ready; I am not afraid of death.
The doctors finally convinced her to take antibiotics to help with her stomach upsets and pills to lower her blood pressure.
But she kept refusing the surgery. In another quote, she said, “I just don’t have anything in my heart to do it.”
About 14 months after his arrival in the United States, he died of malnutrition.
The doctors could not say where in the body the pregnancy occurred, but they concluded that it was probably outside the uterus.
She suffered from lithopedion, which can occur when a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, or one in which the fetus develops outside the womb.
When the baby dies, it is too big for the body to reabsorb.
As a result, the immune system determines that the dead fetus poses a threat and launches an attack.
This leads to calcium-rich deposits being deposited on the fetus, gradually enveloping it in a calcified shell or turning it to stone.
Fetuses in this state can be carried for up to 60 years inside their bodies, says the medical literature. They may not trigger symptoms, and some women don’t even realize they are present.
In another example, a woman in Colombia ended up carrying a dead fetus for 40 years.
The 82-year-old woman originally thought she was suffering from a stomach virus. But the scans revealed the presence of the calcified fetus.
She then underwent surgery to remove the dead fetus from her body.
Dr. Kemer Ramírez of Bogotá’s Hospital Tunjuelito said at the time: ‘This happens because the fetus does not develop in the womb because it has moved to another place.
“In this case, the woman’s abdominal part is not a viable (place) and this is what happened, a calcified fetus because the body is generating defense mechanisms and it calcifies until it is encapsulated there.”
A separate case was recorded in 2015 when an elderly woman in Chile was found to still have a 50-year-old fetus inside her.
The woman, who was at least 90 years old, was sent to the San Antonio City Hospital after suffering a fall.
But X-rays revealed that she was also carrying a fetus, which weighed about 4.4 pounds (2 kg).
Doctors described the fetus as “large and developed, occupying her entire abdominal cavity.”
It was not removed by surgery, and doctors ruled it too risky given the woman’s age.