24 October 2008

Lithopedion - a "stone baby"

"In 1955 in a small village just outside Casablanca, 26 year old Zahra Aboutalib is pregnant with her first child. She was looking forward to giving birth, but after 48 hours of painful labour, she was rushed to the local hospital. Doctors informed her that she would need a caesarean section. On the ward Zahra saw a woman in terrible pain die in child-birth. She fled the hospital fearing she would meet the same fate if she remained.

In the days that followed, Zahra continued to suffer excruciating labour pains but the baby remained resolutely in her womb. After a few more days the pains ceased and the baby stopped moving.

In Moroccan culture, it is believed that a baby can sleep inside the mother to protect her honour. Zahra believed this myth and put the pregnancy out of her mind. She adopted three children and in due course they made her a grandmother.

Many years later when Zahra was 75 years old, the pains suddenly returned. Her son being concerned for his mother's well-being wanted her to see a specialist. For this they had to travel to Rabat where they saw Professor Taibi Ouazzani. He suspected the protruding belly was being caused by an ovarian tumour and arranged for her to have an ultra-sound scan. This revealed a large mass that he could not identify.

He referred Zahra to a specialist radiographer for a second opinion. He could see it was a calcified structure of some sort, but it took a detailed MRI scan to reveal that it was the baby Zahra had conceived 46 years earlier.

Zahra had an ectopic pregnancy where the egg had implanted in the fallopian tube. The foetus that developed, burst out of the fallopian tube and continued to develop in the abdominal cavity…

When they operated they discovered that the foetus had calcified and was a hard, solid lump. It was, essentially, a stone-baby."

(Text and image credit here.)


  1. Woahhhh. that sounds nuts!
    didnt that woman feel any pain all those years?? omg.. how could she live without giving birth to her own baby. thats crazy!

  2. The human body is amazing. Incredibly strong woman.

  3. i saw it on Discovery!!! it was insane!

  4. Same essential thing happened to my wife in WA State in 1998 - a lithopedion, pregnancy believed dated to around 1993. Surgically removed, and another child was born about a year later.

  5. That's true. I'm studying medicine in france, and this afternoon, in class, a doctor showed us a X-ray revealing a lithpedion. It passed a few time before we determined what we were looking to...


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