In 1955 Zahra Aboutalib became pregnant for the first time. She lived in a small village near Casablanca in Morocco and was 26-years-old when she went into labour. She was rushed into hospital where she nervously waited for the doctors but was told there was a complication. She was going to need a c-section. At the same time that Zahra was waiting however she watched as another young woman was rushed in for a c-section but suffered a miscarriage and died. Terrified that the same thing might happen to her, Zahra fled.
Zahra continued to experience painful labour contractions but there was no miscarriage, and after a few days the pain went away and she went on to adopt three children. Decades passed and Zahra’s own children had children and she became a grandmother.
But 46 years after that original pregnancy Zahra’s pain suddenly returned. And an MRI scan revealed the reason why. Zahra had experienced the shockingly rare but very real medical condition known as Lithopedion, also called a “stone baby”.
Decades ago, Zahra had experienced an ectopic pregnancy where the egg never descended into her uterus but remained in the fallopian tube. As the child developed it burst the tube and left the uterus altogether.
It essentially because a free floating piece of foreign matter in Zahra’s body, and when that happens the body responds by slowly covering the foreign object in calcium. This is to protect the mother and prevent the object from becoming a source of infection.
Essentially, the foetus turned to stone.
Lithopedions are extremely rare but they do happen and were first recorded in the 10th Century. In 2015 an elderly woman from Chile was shocked to discover she had undergone the same experience as Zahra when doctors removed a decades old foetus from her body that had turned completely to stone but unlike Zahra the baby remained in the uterus and was not able to be extracted until after she had passed away years later.
Remarkably both of these women experienced very little health problems overall, and both lived long lives. It was only decades after their initial pregnancies that either were made aware of the remarkable process their bodies had undergone.