View Full Version : How do you tell a dead woman was pregnant...

06-06-2009, 04:16 PM
Ok, warning: some not-so-nice questions.

1. How do you tell a dead woman was pregnant? (Her body has been ripped up, like eaten away around her stomach as well. The fetus has been removed. She was quite far along.)

2. How would you typically remove a fetus? (It's not being done in a hospital obviously. But if someone was intending to take it out without damaging it much, how would they pull that off?)

3. Has anyone got a reliable link to something that shows how developed a baby is at the different stages?

06-06-2009, 04:35 PM
I suspect that hormone levels in the blood tests would show she was pregnant

06-06-2009, 05:40 PM
Both blood and urine will prove pregnancy. If she was far along, there's probably measurable stretching of the abdominal skin, enlargement of the uterus, and changes to breast tissue.

Last time I killed a woman and removed the fetus ;), I identified where the uterus was and cut a smile well below it on the abdomen, then carefully cut upward until I could see the uterus for sure. I cut into it carefully, in a series of ever-depending cuts, not wanting to cut the fetus.

I'm not a medical person, and I'm sure there are better ways to do it, but if the well-being of the mother was not an issue, that way works.

There are bazillions of links on fetal development. Somebody had one in a signature line not all that far back.

Maryn, intrigued

06-06-2009, 06:02 PM
Urine test would tell if the hormones were present in the correct quantities, but you'd have to test for that. The ME would have to suspect pregnancy to start down that road. If it looked like all the reproductive organs had been purposely removed, then, I believe he'd be suspiscious.

Barb D
06-06-2009, 08:23 PM
Three actual cases:


And fetal development week by week:

06-06-2009, 10:40 PM
Gosh, thanks so much! :) More than I hoped for with my strange questions.

Can't believe there are actual cases of this happening.

Barb D
06-08-2009, 04:31 PM
And horribly, here's yet another one that just happened this week: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,525316,00.html

06-08-2009, 07:21 PM
Unfortunately yes, there are cases from the past and newly cropped up cases of fetal theft...sad as it is there are plenty of cases of it.

Ways to tell without blood or urinalysis:

The hip structure, the hips roll outward during later stage pregnancy to accomodate the impending birth of the child. The placenta could still be present, massive blood loss from this type of make shift c-section (cesarean), breast enlargement or engorgement from lactation - oxytocin is a natural chemical produced by a pregnant or nursing human mother (or any mammal for that matter) and causes lactational let down (breast milk is released from the breast in spurts from the oxytocin rush in the body). Oxytocin is also a very emotion sensitive reactive chemical in the female set of hormones, extreme emotional states can cause extreme lactational let down.

The scapula will be flattened and scraped if the woman has had natural child birth before hand (scapula is a flat bone to the back of the pelvic structure, it is what archeologists used as a tool to determine amount of children birthed by an English royal from England's past - it was on the discovery channel).

Typically, developmental stages of the fetus are sectioned into 4 weeks at a time, duration of a normal developmental cycle for the human female and her fetus is 40 weeks (10 months, not 9). Weeks 0 through 4, it is called a zygot, pre fetus stage. Unrecognizable as a human form - cells may still be splitting and multiplying. weeks 4 through 8 - arm and leg buds start appearing, it is about .5 inches to an inch long and still is not recognizable as human form persay. The fetal heart is now one single artery and produces a heart beat (though not picked up by outside fetal monitoring in most circumstances). At 8 weeks, all fetuses are female, if by the 12 week mark the fetus has the male markers, it the fetus begins to develop male genitalia. All of us started out as females (go figure). If the fetus has female markers, it remains female.

The 8 to 12 weeks is where brain development happens, the buds start growing out, skin is translucent and the fetus becomes recognizable. At 12 weeks, the woman is past the majority of the danger zone for spontaneous miscarriage and fetal demise (in most cases where pregnancy is normal). 12 weeks is also where the heart beat can be detected in most cases of normal pregnancy by outside fetal monitoring. This is the 3 month mark and the marking of the first trimester.

12 to 16 weeks - the fetus is very much recognizable as human. The heart and organs continue to develop, the brain and heart are fully functional. Skin is still translucent and baby will be felt as a squirm that resembles flatulence or butterflies in the lower abdomen.

16 to 20 weeks - More pronounced feelings of movement, Baby is about 3 to 5 inches in length, vernix begins to develop on the skin (protective coating from amniotic fluid). Ultra sounds are usually done in this developmental stage to rule out organ problems, genetic issues and to check on developmental stages of baby (head circumference, estimate due date, length and estimated size and weight, heart beat, placental maturity and health, amniotic levels, ect).

20 to 24 weeks - the youngest preemie saved in our medical history has been a 24 weeker preemie. It is doable with the right set of equipment and expertize - although normally 25 weeks and on are viable outside the womb. This is a stage of development much the same like the last two - organs still growing, vernix is still developing, brain is fully mature and developed as well as heart and most other organs. Skin is still translucent and hair can be seen on the baby's body as well as fingers, toes, finger prints, ect. Baby may show signs of "practice breathing" which looks like a sigh of sorts on ultrasound (I've seen it with my second, awe inspiring). Baby could be anywhere from a half pound to a full pound depending on parents birth weights and genetics.

24-27 weeks - viable outside the womb with preventative and pallative medical care. Hiccups, sucks thumb, turns head to outside sounds, light sources, recognizes mother and fathers voices, kicks, rolls, blinks eyes, sleeps and defecates (their urine and feces replenish the amniotic fluid), practice breaths, swallows...

27-30 weeks - Putting on weight and lungs are still developing. Most, if not all other areas of development are complete. The last trimester is for weight gain and lung development. Same as above for activities and developmental gestation.

30 to 34 weeks - again same as the last. For weight gain and lung maturity. Most babies born at this level do very well. My youngest was a 33 week preemie. They are developing reflexes such as the Moro reflex and suckle reflex.

34 to 37 weeks (35 to 37 is considered unofficially full term in the medical field) - 35 weeks the lungs are fully developed and capable of supporting the baby fully outside the environment of the womb. This is the last stages of development and weight gain. Baby will start turning to position its head toward the cervix and birth canal.

37 - 40 weeks - Anytime during this last month is acceptable for labor and delivery. Baby is fully developed, turned (hopefully, if the baby isn't a breech baby) to the proper position for natural birth. Baby may "drop" into the pelvic region anytime during this last stage of pregnancy, forcing the cervix to soften and open as well as thin (called Dilation and Effacement).

Hope that helps! Good luck with your story!!!