How does a 44-year-old fetus survive in an 84-year-old Brazilian woman? That’s the first thought that entered my mind when I heard about the story, and it’s true, by several reports on Feb. 14.
The Daily Mail first broke the fetus story when the woman’s intense stomach pains landed her in a hospital in Tocantins state in central Brazil.
X-rays revealed the unthinkable: a “stone baby.” The rare phenomenon is known as lithopedion, in which the fetus grows and then dies outside of the uterus.
With the body unable to rid itself of it, the 44-year-old dead fetus is instead covered in calcium as a means of protection, resulting in the “stone baby.” Per G1, the woman says she became pregnant more than 40 years ago but suffered pain during the pregnancy, and visited a healer for help.
After taking what he had given her, “Her stomach didn’t grow any more, the baby stopped moving, and she thought it had been aborted,” says a gynecologist at the hospital where she was transferred.
The gynecologist says X-rays revealed “the face, the bones of the arms, of the legs, the ribs, and the spine,” of the 44-year-old fetus, which is believed to have died at between 20 and 28 weeks.
In December, a nearly identical case was announced in Colombia. That woman opted to have surgery; the Brazilian says she does not want the fetus removed.
In 2009, a 92-year-old Chinese woman was found to have a 60-year-old “stone baby” inside her. The first reported case of lithopedion was Madame Colombe Chatri, a 68-year-old French woman. An autopsy after her death in 1582 revealed she had been carrying a fully-developed stone baby in her abdominal cavity for 28 years.
While the 44-year-old fetus is a rare phenomenon, there are fewer than 300 cases reported in medical literature.