Shock and confusion as Eastern Cape woman gives birth in coffin

“Woman gives birth in coffin” is not a headline you envision seeing at any point. But a rural village in the Eastern Cape has been left utterly flabbergasted at the news of one deceased local who physically gave birth 10 days after her death.

Nomveliso Nomasonto Mdoyi passed away aged 33, after initially complaining of a shortness of breath. She died soon after she reported her symptoms, and it was thought her nearly nine-month-old foetus would pass with her.

However, when staff at the parlour in Mbizana were preparing Nomveliso for her funeral the next day, they were greeted by the traumatising sight of a baby between its mother’s legs.

Medical term for ‘woman gives birth in coffin’

The Mdoyis have since been buried in one coffin together, but it has sent shockwaves through the community. The Daily Dispatch report that some residents claimed witchcraft was to blame for the inhumanity.

The process is known as ‘postmortem fetal extrusion‘ – a general term given to the birth of a baby after the mother dies. There was a case documented in India (Behera, 2007) where a mother hung herself after her contractions started, and her child was born naturally after the death of the parent.

How is it possible to give birth after death?

The miracle of life can occur, even in death. As a body decomposes, the integrity of muscle tissue and organs are compromised. Whilst this is happening, gasses and pressure build up inside the corpse. This pressure is able to force a foetus through the vaginal canal, in the exact same fashion as a normal birth.

The Lindokuhle Funeral company who made the discovery have since been able to hold a service for both of the deceased. Nomveliso Nomasonto Mdoyi has no other children, but does leave behind her mother Mandzala Mdoyi, aged 76.

The case, as saddening as it is puzzling, leaves us all with a very heavy heart.

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