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Birth in the Grave: A Terrifying Yet Entirely Real Phenomenon

Birth in the grave, or postmortem childbirth, is a phenomenon where during the decomposition of a pregnant woman’s body, gases accumulate in the abdominal cavity and push the uterus with the fetus out through the vagina.

Most often, the fetus is already dead by that time, but occasionally, when the deceased pregnant woman was at an advanced stage of pregnancy, a completely alive and undamaged infant could be expelled from her womb. And if discovered in time by people, such an infant had every chance of living a long life.

The problem lies in the fact that if the deceased was buried quickly, as is the case in the vast majority of instances, there was little chance of the living infant being discovered, unless someone heard its faint cry emanating from beneath the soil of a freshly dug grave and believed it to be real.

Later, hundreds of years afterwards, when the remains of such a deceased person were unearthed by archaeologists, all they could do was to marvel at the tiny bones of the infant lying beside its mother’s pelvic bones.

The phenomenon of postmortem childbirth is extremely rare in our time, but in the past, archaeologists recorded such cases as far back as the Bronze Age (about 6,000 years ago). Official records of such occurrences, however, date back to the 16th century.

In 1551, during the height of the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition, a woman was hanged, and no one knew she was pregnant at the time of her death. On that scorching day, just a few hours after her death, her body, left hanging from the gallows, began to decompose.

Suddenly, two dead infants emerged from her lower body. This spectacle was probably extremely shocking to onlookers, although it is not reflected in the document.

A hundred years later, a case was recorded involving a Frenchwoman named Emmie Toplais. She died of “convulsions” while pregnant, while her husband was away. He returned several hours after her burial and immediately visited his wife’s grave.

There, he suddenly heard a faint cry of an infant coming from below. He immediately ordered the grave to be dug up and found a living male infant lying between the thighs of his deceased wife.

The infant survived and was named “Fils de la Terre” (“Son of the Earth”), and the record of this remarkable incident was preserved in the local parish register.

In the early 19th century in Finland, a 24-year-old pregnant woman from a wealthy family passed away. Before her burial, she was embalmed, but the body of the fetus was not removed from her womb.

She was laid to rest in the mausoleum nearly six months after her death, yet somehow, postmortem childbirth occurred, and the body of the fetus, which was about six months developed, was expelled from her womb.

In 2018, archaeologists from Italy excavated the skeleton of a pregnant woman who died in the 7th or 8th century AD. Most likely, due to pregnancy complications, she experienced a rare spike in blood pressure, as she even underwent cranial trepanation shortly before her death.

However, trepanation did not help, and the Italian woman died when she was about six months pregnant. In her grave, postmortem childbirth occurred, and archaeologists discovered the remains of her infant between her thigh bones.

In the autumn of 1819, in the Russian village of Lopasnya, Moscow region, a pregnant peasant woman named Akulina Petrova passed away. She died in agony after many hours of intense labor, unable to give birth.

She was buried on the third day after her death, washed and given all the necessary procedures. And a few days after her burial, children were playing near the cemetery and heard frightening sounds, as if someone was quietly moaning.

The priest believed the children and called the men, ordering them to quickly dig up the grave. And everyone was horrified to see that Akulina’s body was lying in the grave in a different position than at the time of burial, and between her legs, a living male infant was crying in blood.

The infant was removed from the grave, unharmed, and was named Peter and given to his father to raise. Akulina, however, was hopelessly dead, although presumably she was buried alive, woke up in the grave, gave birth from a severe shock, and then suffocated.

As for modern cases of postmortem childbirth, despite their extreme rarity, they still occur. In 2005, in Hamburg, a 34-year-old drug addict who was eight months pregnant died of a heroin overdose.

By the time her body was discovered in her apartment, it was already significantly decomposed, and the infant had been expelled from her womb. Perhaps it was still alive when this happened, but no one heard its cry…

The remains of a prehistoric woman from Siberia, Russia, who experienced postmortem childbirth


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