An 82-year-old Colombian woman has been unknowingly carrying a fetus inside her abdomen for 40 years, reported NTD Television.
Doctors initially thought her stomach pain was due to a bug, but scans revealed that she suffered from a very rare condition in which a woman carries a lithopedion, or a “stone baby.” A lithopedion occurs when an unborn child develops outside the womb.
The Colombian woman’s fetus developed in her abdomen, which is not a “viable place” for it to grow. She will now undergo a surgery to remove the lithopedion.
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Dr. Kemer Ramirez of Bogota’s Tunjuelito Hospital first suspected the woman had gallstones, but scans showed a tumor in her abdomen. He told NTD, “This happens because the fetus does not develop in the uterus because it has moved to another place.” He explained that the body generated defense mechanisms and “calcified” the fetus.
Basically, the fetus gets to an advanced stage and when it is too large for the woman’s body to absorb it, the remains of the unborn child turn to stone to protect her body from being infected by its decomposing tissue, explained this NBC News report. However, without other complications, a woman can live a normal life as her body doesn’t recognize the stone baby as a foreign mass.
Lithopedions are extremely rare; less than 300 cases have been recorded. The most recent case was that of a 92-year-old Chinese woman who was found to be carrying a 60-year-old stone baby in 2009.