An African woman suffering from severe malnutrition was flown to New York to be treated by American doctors. The woman, who has not been named, was fifty years old when she died from malnutrition because an unborn fetus got lodged in her abdomen for nine years and slowly absorbed all of the nutrition for the food she ate. The mother, who was originally from the Congo, flew across the Atlantic Ocean to visit doctors in New York because she was suffering from indigestion, stomach cramps, and a bizarre gurgling sound after she ate.
When the New York doctors were able to look at the 50-year-old woman from the Congo, they found that she was carrying a “stone baby.” This term describes a fetus that has calcified inside of the body. In the case of the African woman, the fetus had gotten stuck against her intestines after she suffered a miscarriage nine years ago.
The complication is very rare and has only been documented in three hundred cases around the globe. When it does happen, the fetus develops outside of the womb, dies, and does not get released from the body like a typical miscarriage.
In the case of the 50-year-old woman, she eventually refused treatment from the American doctors because she believed that her health problems were all stemming from a “spell” someone cast upon her back when she was in Africa.
Fourteen months after the woman arrived in the United States, she passed away from malnutrition related to the calcified fetus that had gotten stuck inside her abdomen. Doctors confirmed that the woman’s cause of death was starvation due to the rare pregnancy complication.
Dr. Waseem Sous, an internal medicine expert at SUNY Upstate Medical University, reported the case. They said that the African woman who was being treated in New York “declined intervention due to fear of surgery and elected for symptom monitoring.”
Dr. Sous added, “Unfortunately, she passed away due to severe malnutrition in the context of recurrent bowel obstruction due to the lithopedion and continued fear of seeking medical care.”
The doctors learned that the fetus, which would have been the woman’s ninth child, stopped growing inside her at twenty-eight weeks. This meant that the fetus was pretty large, considering that it got lodged inside her body and prevented her digestive system from adequately absorbing nutrients.
When the fetus died, the woman did not miscarry, which would have been typical. Instead, she went through a process known as lithopedion. This is a condition in which a pregnancy develops outside of the womb in the woman’s abdomen. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy, which is a term used to describe pregnancies that form outside of the uterus in the wrong part of the body.
The rare condition has only been recorded 290 times. The first time it was recorded dates back to France in 1582. That makes it very rare and uncommon.