The most famous case of abdominal ectopic pregnancy occurred in 1582. Surgeons in the French city of Sens autopsied a tailor’s wife, Madame Colombe Chatri, who had died at the age of sixty-eight. They discovered a scaly, calcified fetus so hard that they needed mauls and a drill to break it open. Chatri had carried the so-called lithopedion for twenty-eight years following an ectopic pregnancy and unproductive labor. The “stone-child of Sens” was sold and passed from one wealthy European collector to the next for years, before finally ending up in the Danish Museum of Natural History.
Many women will never know why their embryo implanted outside their uterus. In some cases, microscopic scarring probably blocks passage of the fertilized egg. In other cases, the tube’s muscles and cilia — the hairlike structures that usher an egg toward the uterus — may malfunction. But the complete answer likely involves a complex and poorly understood interplay of genomic and hormonal interactions. The problem may originate not in the woman’s organs but in the embryo’s DNA. A few researchers have also raised the possibility that a subset of ectopic pregnancies can’t be blamed on the woman’s reproductive system at all but may instead be caused by damaged sperm.
The units here are mIU of hCGß per mL, where one mIU is approximately equal to 1 × 10-6 mg.
The medical literature does contain examples of abdominal pregnancies in which mother and child survived surgery to remove a full-term infant. This is so rare, however, and the dangers of blood loss in the abdominal cavity so great, that doctors recommend termination in abdominal cases as well.