A stillborn baby emerged from its mother 10 days after she had died, plunging the family into fresh grief.
The woman, named as 33-year-old Nomveliso Nomasonto Mdoyi, complained of sudden breathlessness at home in the village of Mthayisi in South Africa’s southern Eastern Cape province.
Mum-of-five Nomveliso died shortly afterwards and her body was given to a firm of funeral directors ahead of her burial.
‘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.
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.
‘I have been in the business for more than 20 years and I have never heard of a dead woman giving birth.’
The shocking incident left her mother Mandzala Mdoyi, 76, even more grief-stricken.
She said: ‘We appeal to educated people, people who know better, to please cool us down and explain to us how it is possible for a dead woman to give birth.
‘I am now over 70 years old and never heard of such a thing. Why is that happening to my child?
‘First, I was devastated by the untimely death of my daughter and now I got the shock of my life to learn that she had given birth while she had been dead for 10 days. What is that? God please come and intervene?’
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.