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Woman died of malnutrition after carrying an unborn baby for nine years

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An unborn foetus was discovered trapped in the abdomen of a 50-year-old woman who passed away from acute starvation.

The Congolese refugee woman complained of stomach pain, indigestion, and a gurgling sound after meals to doctors in New York.

Further scans revealed she had a “stone baby,” a calcified foetus that was trapped in her intestines and causing significant intestinal obstruction and consequent malnutrition.

The foetus was attributed to a miscarriage she had suffered nine years earlier, which would have been the woman’s ninth child.

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However, rather than seeking treatment the woman instead blamed her ailments on witchcraft, claiming to have had a ‘spell’ cast on her by a local witch before she came to the US.

She died from her condition 14 months after arriving in the United States.

The extremely rare phenomenon, known as a lithopedion, has only been recorded 290 times throughout history, with the first dating back to France in 1582.

It occurs when a foetus begins to develop in the abdomen rather than the womb, causing it to calcify and ‘turn to stone’ once the pregnancy becomes unviable, compressing major organs and restricting the mother’s nutrient absorption.

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For this woman, the ‘stone baby’ kept compressing her intestine, causing major blockages which meant her body was no longer able to absorb vital nutrients- leading to starvation.

Dr Waseem Sous, an internal medicine expert at SUNY Upstate Medical University who reported the case, said the patient ‘declined intervention due to fear of surgery and elected for symptom monitoring.’

‘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 case study was revealed in a medical report in the journal BMC Women’s Health this week.

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The mother’s early life had seen her uprooted twice, moving from Congo to Burundi and then Tanzania because of conflicts.

In Tanzania, she settled down and had eight children, delivered naturally. Three died shortly after childbirth.

She visited a doctor’s clinic during her ninth pregnancy after noticing that her baby was no longer moving, where medics told her the baby had no heartbeat and recommended that she try to pass it naturally at home.

If this did not work, they said, she should return in two weeks.

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The woman followed the instructions, but when she returned to the clinic she was accosted by people outside accusing her of ‘evil work’ and ‘killing the baby’, which convinced her not to seek any medical help.

She then spent nine years carrying the dead foetus inside her, and had no contact with medics until receiving a health check six months before being resettled to the United States.

Doctors offered her surgery to remove the mass, but she refused, and said the condition was the result of a curse someone placed on her in Tanzania.

She told doctors: ‘I will let you know when I am ready; I am not scared of death.’

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Medics did eventually convince her to take antibiotics to help with her stomach complaints and pills to lower her blood pressure, but the woman kept refusing surgery.

During another appointment, she simply said: ‘I just do not have it in my heart to do.’

The woman passed away from severe malnutrition a short time later.

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