The Grapevine

Woman On Life Support Since February Gives Birth To Healthy Baby

The baby was born healthy despite the odd circumstances of his birth. Pixabay Public Domain

On Feb. 20, a 37-year-old Portuguese woman was declared brain dead after suffering a hemorrhage. She was pregnant, and despite her diagnosis, her son was born four months later.

The Guardian reported that the baby was delivered via caesarean section at Lisbon Central Hospital, having gone 32 weeks in his mother’s womb. After determining the fetus was healthy and consulting with the father, doctors decided to keep the mom on life support in order to continue the pregnancy. The newborn, born five weeks premature, was on the small side, at just 5 pounds, 3 ounces. Doctors say he is in good health.

Luis Graca, head of the Portuguese Society of Obstetricians, called the birth “an extraordinary feat.”

“They were lucky that the mother hung in there all that time,” he told the newspaper Público. “Most women die in these situations. It is extremely difficult to keep the pregnant woman alive by mechanical means while ensuring that the fetus advances.”

Though doctors at the hospital had to assess the health of the fetus per protocol, they said that ultimately it was the woman’s family who had final say on whether they would keep her alive to see the pregnancy through. They did not mention whether the woman remains on life support after the birth.

This may be the longest time an unborn child in Portugal has survived in the womb after a mother was declared brain dead, but it’s hardly without precedent. A similar case occurred in Poland this January after a pregnant woman was declared brain dead because of a tumor — her child survived 55 days in the womb before being born. In 2001, a Kentucky woman fell into a coma after a car crash and gave birth to a healthy, full-term daughter during the eight months she was unconscious.

Last year, doctors said only 33 similar cases had been reported in medical literature since 1982.