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Dangers Of Not Removing Dead Foetus After A Miscarriage | Gynaecologists

Dangers Of Not Removing Dead Foetus After A Miscarriage | Gynaecologists

Experts have warned that women who have experienced miscarriages and still have remains of the foetuses left in their womb or abdomen are at risk of coming down with life-threatening infections, uncontrollable haemorrhage, and carrying ‘stone babies’ for many years.

The gynaecologists emphasized the severity, especially if the pregnancy occurs in the fallopian tube or abdominal cavity, known as ectopic pregnancy.

According to a medical blog, Healthline, miscarriage is also known as spontaneous abortion. It is a miscarriage in which the foetus does not form or stops forming and the foetal parts are still in the uterus or abdominal cavity.

Ectopic pregnancy, Cleveland Clinic stated, is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb or uterus.

Although medical data indicate that ectopic pregnancies are rare and occur in approximately two per cent of all pregnancies, they are life-threatening.

An article titled ‘An overview of ectopic pregnancy, diagnosis, management and innovation’ published in the National Library of Medicine, reports that ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester.

Meanwhile, ‘stone baby’, medically known as lithopedion, is connected with ectopic pregnancies. It is an undiagnosed or untreated advanced ectopic pregnancy that has had calcium salt deposited on it.

Women carrying ‘stone babies’, experts warn, face a seemingly dire situation.

Another journal article published in the National Library of Medicine, reports that lithopedion is a rare phenomenon that happens in 1.3 to 2 per cent of ectopic pregnancies and less than 1 per cent of all pregnancies.

Although these cases are rare, medical literature and the media have captured and reported a few of such cases.

Recently, the DailyMail reported that a 50-year-old woman died from severe malnutrition after carrying an unborn foetus for nine years.

It was reported that the woman had an abdominal ectopic pregnancy and missed miscarriage at 28 weeks of what would have been her ninth child.

A report from the scan showed that the ‘stone baby’ had compressed her intestines, causing her to suffer severe malnutrition.

Still, in March, an 81-year-old woman died after undergoing surgery to remove her 56-year-old ‘stone baby.’

The Octogenarian was said to have complained of stomach pains and was reluctant to visit a hospital since her last pregnancy in 1968.

SEE ALSO: Identifying The Risk Of An Ectopic Pregnancy + Everything Else You Should Know About It

After the operation was done, The SUN, reported that she died the following day while in the intensive care unit.

In another rare case of lithopedion, an 80-year-old woman, who complained of pelvic pain was diagnosed with carrying a 40-year-old ‘stone baby.’

Despite the rarity of stone pregnancies, both gynaecologists underscored the importance of regular antenatal care and prompt medical attention for pregnant women.

They urged women to report any changes or abnormalities during pregnancy, such as reduced foetal movement or unusual symptoms, to their healthcare providers immediately.

A professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto State, Abubakar Panti, said while stone pregnancies are typically rare, they often coincide with ectopic pregnancies.

He explained that if a foetus dies after 14 weeks of gestation, when the bone tissue has developed and remains in the woman’s body without expulsion, it can calcify, resulting in what is commonly known as a “stone baby.”

Panti emphasised that due to its location outside the womb, such pregnancies may necessitate surgical intervention for removal, adding that prolonged retention of the deceased foetus in the abdomen, especially if it has been attached to other organs or vessels, can increase mortality rates.

He said,

“Stone babies can occur, although they are rare. While they may develop within the womb, the discomfort experienced by the woman usually prompts early medical attention, preventing long-term retention.

“Missed abortions, where a pregnancy ends before viability, can lead to complications if the foetus is not expelled promptly. In some cases, the foetus may calcify, resembling a ‘stone baby’, although such occurrences are infrequent.

Typically, missed miscarriages result in bleeding and pain, prompting timely medical intervention. While instances of stone pregnancies are uncommon, prompt medical care is crucial to avoid complications.”

The don pointed out that women with visibly advanced abdominal pregnancies have a lower risk of developing stone babies as such pregnancies are typically diagnosed early.

He, however, cautioned that women in the early stages of pregnancy, particularly between 14-15 weeks, who do not display visible signs, may remain undiagnosed and experience persistent discomfort if not evaluated by specialists.

ALSO SEE: 36-Year-Old Woman Who Carried Ectopic Pregnancy For 9 Months Without Knowing And Delivered A Healthy Baby Girl Recounts Her Ordeal

The gynaecologist urged females to take cases of missed menstruation seriously, advising them to visit the doctor for a checkup to ensure quick detection of pregnancy or other underlying diseases.

“After the second missed period, go for a pregnancy test and once you are pregnant, see a professional.

A professional who knows what they are doing would request an ultrasound scan and if the pregnancy is not seen in the womb would recommend a series of tests to clearly show that it is an ectopic or abdominal pregnancy, which can be managed without allowing it to degenerate to the level of becoming a stone baby,”

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the don added.

He noted that the increasing use of advanced ultrasound scans has made occurrences of stone babies rare.

The maternal care expert emphasised the importance of immediate hospital visits for pregnant women between 15 to 20 weeks of gestation, who no longer feel their babies’ movement or heartbeats.

Panti further advised women to observe the progress and growth of their pregnancies, stating that this would ensure early detection of a missed pregnancy for immediate evacuation.

Another professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Aniekan Abasiattai, affirmed that cases of stone babies are rare in Nigeria.

He said symptoms associated with stone pregnancies are non-specific, which indicates that there are no direct symptoms attributed to lithopedion.

Abasiattai, however, pointed out that women experiencing such cases might present with various complaints, including abdominal discomfort, uneasiness, and possibly vaginal bleeding.

“On examination of the patient, there might be no specific symptom that is characteristic of a stone pregnancy. There are many other things you could discover; normally, one could observe a mass of abnormal growth or a lump in the abdomen, which could mimic various conditions.

“The diagnosis is usually confirmed through X-ray due to the presence of calcium deposits or by a radiological method known as magnetic resonance imaging, which provides more detailed information.

“The final diagnosis is made during surgery when the stone baby is removed, and then pathologists examine it. Naturally, both the foetal part and the calcium deposits will be evident during this examination,”

he added.

The expert further noted that retaining a dead foetus, whether in the uterus or abdomen, is dangerous and could lead to infection and uncontrollable haemorrhage, which could affect other organs of the body, causing multiple organ failure.

“If a pregnant woman retains a dead foetus due to missed miscarriage, standard medical practice is to expel such foetus as soon as she presents in the hospital. This is done to protect the woman from the onset of infection and other medical conditions,”

Abasiattai stressed.

He further clarified that the implications remained consistent when a foetus was retained in a pregnant woman due to either abortion or missed miscarriage.

The gynaecologist strongly condemned the misuse of over-the-counter pills intended to induce abortions, noting that many women resort to these pills when their pregnancies are well-developed.

The specialist with over 20 years of practice stressed the importance of antenatal care attendance at well-equipped and adequately staffed centres for pregnant women.

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