A 40-year-old stone baby was discovered when a Colombian woman went to the hospital complaining of stomach pains. Originally they thought the woman had a disease called gastroenteritis but her X-ray revealed something totally different; a calcified fetus.
This 82-year-old woman was suffering from a rare condition called lithopedion. This condition happens when a woman gets pregnant and the fetus develops outside of the uterus because it moved somewhere else. This medical condition is more commonly referred to as a stone baby.
Botota’s Tumjunelito Hospital NTD, Dr. Kemer Ramirez, was prepared to treat the woman for gallstones. Ramirez supervised the woman’s health concern during the painful process. He explained the process by saying, “When the woman’s fetus moved to the abdominal area it eventually calcified because the abdominal part of the woman is not a viable place for the fetus to develop. As a result of this foreign object being where it didn’t belong the body began to institute defense mechanisms to protect the body from possible infection and as a result calcified the fetus.” The calcified substance gradually mummified until it became a stone baby. The stone baby remained in that place encapsulated until an X-ray discovered it.
A calcified fetus can occur anywhere from 14 weeks after conception to full term. During these rare cases it is not at all unusual for the calcified fetus to go undiagnosed for decades until the mother is incidentally diagnosed because of constant complaints of certain pains. There are only about one out of every 11,000 pregnancies where a dead fetus develops into a stone baby; which many times their carrier is unaware of.
Another well-known case occurred in 2009 when a 92-year-old woman from southern China delivered a calcified baby that she had been carrying for over half a century. Huang Yijun had housed the stone baby inside her body for 60 years.
Dr. Natalie Burger, fertility specialist and endocrinologist at the Texas Fertility Center, said usually when an ectopic pregnancy occurs doctors will recommend, due to serious risks to the mother, that the pregnancy be terminated. She went on to say often due to the lack of blood supply the fetus simply dies on its own. With the majority of these cases the fetus doesn’t survive anywhere near multiple months; instead the tissue breaks down and they’re gone.
There are rare cases when the implanted fetus grows to an advanced stage before it dies. This is when the body calcifies the dead fetus to protect the body from the decomposing tissue. Because the carrier’s body doesn’t identify the hardening mass a foreign they often go on with their life unaware until they start to experience complications.
There are less than 300 cases of lithopedion that have ever been documented by medical literature. The first instance recorded is Madame Colombe Chatri, a 68-year-old French woman, who died in 1582. During her autopsy she was found to be carrying a fully developed stone baby in her abdominal cavity. Chatri’s abdomen was noted to be hard, painful and swollen throughout her life. She had been carrying her stone baby for 28 years.
Many have questioned how a woman could continue life with a stone baby inside and not know something was wrong. Burger said that in many of those cases there would be initial symptoms of pregnancy which would simply go away. The mother would then think they had a miscarriage and wouldn’t think about any longer.
In the case of Yijun, according to reports, she said could not afford to have the fetus removed once doctors told her about it in 1948. Since she didn’t have the money for the removal procedure she just ignored it and did nothing.
In the case of the Colombian woman she had no idea that she had been carrying around a calcified fetus for 40 years. She had been experiencing severe abdominal pains and was thought to have gastroenteritis; a form of diarrhea. The woman’s ultrasound showed no evidence of the disease so an abdominal X-ray, which revealed the calcified fetus, was ordered.
After the discovery, the 82-year-old Colombian woman was transferred to another facility to undergo a surgical procedure to have the 40-year-old stone baby removed.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)