When 33 year old mum-of-five Nomveliso Nomasonto Mdoyi, from Mthayisi village in South Africa, died suddenly after experiencing “breathing problems”, her entire family went into shock.
Nomveliso was 9 months pregnant with her sixth child.
Her Mother, Mandzala Mdoyi said of the tragedy, “I was devastated by the untimely death of my daughter and now I got the shock of my life to learn that she has given birth while she had been dead for 10 days,”
But how could this have happened? Surely it is not possible for a body which has ceased to function for 10 days to give birth to a full term baby?
Medical experts told local media that it was possible that the foetus was expelled from the mum’s body by a build of gases.
The deterioration of muscles after death may also have contributed, a doctor said.
The day before Nomveliso’d funeral was due to take place, funeral directors made final checks on the body only to discover that a stillborn child had appeared between the Mothers’ legs.
Boss of the funeral directors for Lindokuhle Funeral Fundile Makalana said: ‘When we took the body from the mortuary tray to her coffin we discovered that there was a newly born baby between her legs.’
‘The baby was dead. We were so shocked and frightened that we did not even have time to look at the sex of the baby. I have been in the business for more than 20 years and I have never heard of a dead woman giving birth.’
The family reportedly ignored some suggestions of witchcraft and held a funeral and cremation as planned, with the baby in the coffin with its mother.
It is not clear whether the baby’s life could have been saved had doctors provided different treatment when the mother fell ill.
What is coffin birth?
The phenomenon is medically known as post mortem foetal extrusion.
During decomposition of the body, tissues become depleted of oxygen and gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are released.
At the same time, organ tissues are weakened by exoenzymes which are secreted by bacteria.
Diffusion of excessive gases into weakened tissues causes the torso and limbs to become bloated two to five days after death.
The pressure forces body fluids from natural orifices and amniotic membranes in a pregnant woman become stretched and separated.
Gas in the abdomen may cause the uterus to prolapse and the foetus to be expelled through the vaginal canal.
No baby has ever been recorded as surviving following a coffin birth.