Huang Yijun, a Chinese woman, was known to be carrying a pregnancy for over 60 years.1 The woman was informed of a terminated pregnancy by doctors during the early stages, but did not choose to remove the deceased baby from her body. Ideally the deceased baby should have been absorbed by the woman’s body and eventually discarded. However, was not the case for Huang Yijun. Her deceased baby started calcifying (turning into calcium). Calcifying dead tissue within one’s body protects the host’s body from infections and other complications.
The calcified baby eventually gives the impression of turning into stone. However, this condition is extremely rare and just 300 cases have been officially recorded in medical history,2 it is known as Lithopedion, which is greek for small child.
Yijun’s pregnancy was an ectopic pregnancy, an abnormal pregnancy where the fertilized egg was not implanted in her uterus. Thus, the baby starts growing outside of the uterus, devoiding the fertilized egg of the normal course of pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is generally terminated,as the baby does not get the necessary nutrients it needs. Huang Yijun finally had her stone baby operationally removed after 60 long years, citing unbearable pain.
Normal pregnancy vs lithopedion
In a normal pregnancy, the sperm attaches itself to the fertilized egg released by the ovary and conception occurs. After conception, the egg is attached to the female’s uterus, where it receives the nutrition it requires. The egg later turns into an embryo and then gradually into a fetus. A healthy fetus will eventually result into a baby.
During lithopedion, the fetus is latched within the abdomen of a woman, and not within the womb. As the fetus does not receive the regular nutrition it would receive, it withers and eventually dies. The fetus is generally surgically removed to avoid complications for the mother. However, if it isn’t removed surgically, the body generally flushes it out using natural methods. In lithopedion, the dead fetus is not discharged by the host’s body and continues to remain in the abdomen. It is eventually covered by layers of natural bodily occurring calcium to avoid infection caused by dead and rotting tissue of the fetus.
Symptoms of lithopedion
- Constant abdominal pain
- Unnaturally dark vaginal bleeding
- Missed period
Other medically reported cases of lithopedion
The earliest reported incident of lithopedion took place in the year 1582,3 where surgeons uncovered a stone baby during an autopsy of a woman named Colombe Charti. Charti had a pregnancy for 28 years and died with the calcified fetus within here.
The 2nd reported incident of lithopedion took place in the year 1720. A woman named Anna Mullern was impregnated with a stone baby for a period of 46 years, before it finally got removed.4 Mullern also had several regular and successful deliveries while she carried the calcified fetus, her child bearing functions were not affected by lithopedion.
Rebecca Eddy was estimated to be impregnated in in the year 1802. Her calcified fetus was never removed during her lifetime, but doctors discovered a 50 year old calcified stone baby, during her autopsy.5
Aboutalib’s baby hatched in her fallopian tube, causing her pregnancy to be ectopic in nature. She carried the baby for 46 years, before finally getting it surgically removed.6
A total of 300 reported cases of lithopedion or the stone baby disorder have ever been reported, making it an extremely rare disorder.