We all know that the typical human pregnancy lasts just over nine months, or roughly 40 weeks, give or take. Of course, not all pregnancies are typical. But when it comes to Huang Yijun’s pregnancy, even the word “atypical” is an inadequate description. In 2009, the 92 year old Chinese lady (pictured above) gave birth to a fetus she had been carrying for 60 years.
In 1948, Yijun went to her physician and was informed that her pregnancy was no longer viable. The pregnancy was an ectopic pregnancy, a condition which occurs when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the woman’s uterus, typically in one of the Fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies which implant in the Fallopian tubes are not viable and are typically dangerous to the mother, as they can cause severe bleeding. In Yijun’s case, however, the fetus implanted just outside the Fallopian tubes, causing a type of ectopic pregnancy called an abdominal pregnancy.
Abdominal pregnancies are typically not viable either, as was true in Yijun’s case. But rarely — very rarely — something else happens. The now-dead fetus is trapped in a nether void of sorts, not far enough into the uterus to be delivered normally, and too far along to be absorbed back into the woman’s body and later expelled. The fetus instead becomes a lithopedion, or “stone baby,” as the woman’s body envelops it with a layer of calcified salts, shielding the mother from infection.
Lithopedions can go undetected for years, but in Yijun’s case, it was diagnosed pretty early on — in 1948. Unfortunately for her, she was too poor to afford the procedure which would remove the stone baby from her body, where it remained until doctors removed it in 2009.
Bonus fact: Pregnancy tests are ubiquitous nowadays; multiple brands can be found in any given pharmacy. But that obviously was not always the case. An early pregnancy test, developed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, used frogs as the center of the test. The person running the test would inject the woman’s urine into a female frog, and if the frog produced eggs within the next day, the test was considered positive. This test, called the Bufo test (after the species of frog it was first used with) was used until the 1950s.
Related: “Yes, You’re Pregnant, but What About Me?” by Kevin Nealon, a good (and funny) guide book of sorts for dads-to-be, by the former Saturday Night Live actor. 4 stars on 20 reviews. Available on Kindle.