1722: Swedish woman solves phantom pregnancy mystery

In 1724, the Royal Society tabled a report written by Swedish physician Dr John Lindelstolpe. Titled ‘Intestinum Parturiens’, it involved the macabre story of a 41-year-old Swedish woman who suffered two stillborn pregnancies in 18 months – however the first of these pregnancies produced no baby, living or dead:

“[The patient] became pregnant in July 1720 and continued enlarging for seven months… but after the seventh month the enlargement disappeared, a weight only remaining in the right side. She became pregnant again and in December 1721 was delivered of a dead child.”

The mystery of the first pregnancy was not solved until May 1722, when the patient:

“…Went to stool [and] felt so great a pain in the anus that she thought the intestinum rectum had entirely fallen out. On applying her fingers to relieve herself, she brought away part of a cranium, and afterward found in the close stool two ribs. In the course of the fortnight there came away, by the same exit, the remainder of the bones.”

Dr Lindelstolpe’s theory was that the first pregnancy was ectopic: it had taken root and grown in the Fallopian tube before bursting the tube and descending, “by the formation of an abscess, into the rectum”. Pleasingly, the woman recovered from her horrible experiences in mid 1722. She had since regained her health and carried a pregnancy to term, delivering a surviving child.

Source: John Lindelstolpe M.D., “Intestinum Parturiens, or a very uncommon case wherein the bones of a fetes came away per annum”, Stockholm, 1723. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.