February 22, 2016 9:06 am

This occurrence is so infrequent that it is rarely discussed in medical discourse, but postmortem fetal extrusion — more bluntly known as “coffin birth” — is a real thing…and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

It happens when a dead woman expels a fetus during the decomposition process. Of all the strange medical phenomena out there, this might be the most disturbing.

During decomposition, bacteria in the stomach create gases that cause the body to swell. When this happens to a pregnant woman’s body, things get pretty bizarre.

coffin birth

When coffin birth occurs, a child is expelled through the vaginal cavity of a deceased pregnant woman after those gasses put pressure on the uterus.

coffin birth

The earliest known case occurred in 1551 during the Spanish Inquisition. A woman had been dead in the noose for 4 hours when townspeople noticed two deceased infants fall from her body.

coffin birth

The most recent case was in 2008. A murdered woman in Panama was found in a field. It wasn’t until the autopsy was performed that a tiny fetus was found in her undergarments.

coffin birth

Not only is coffin birth extremely rare, but it is also nearly impossible to identify if the body in question has reached a skeletal state. This would explain why we haven’t heard of earlier cases of coffin birth, although archaeologists speculate that it did occur in earlier eras as well.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella