Authorities in Southern California said they are investigating after a newborn was discovered dead in the bed of his 17-year-old mother, who said she did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth.
Police said the teenager’s parents called 911 on Monday evening from their home in Chula Vista, near San Diego, after they found the infant’s body while making the bed. The girl’s parents reported a “non-breathing” baby to emergency dispatchers, police said.
“The child appeared to be have been born hours or days prior,” police said in a statement.
“The parents of that minor found that child deceased in the bed anywhere from 24 to 36 hours later and called us,” Chula Vista Police Lt. Fritz Reber told NBC San Diego.
Reber told the station that the newborn boy appeared to be full-term and weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
When authorities spoke to the teenage girl, she told them she had been unaware she was pregnant until she gave birth while she was in bed, police said in a statement.
Reports of women who didn’t know they were pregnant surface in the news from time to time.
A 23-year-old Boston area woman gave birth last year to a 10-pound baby girl, and said she didn’t know she was pregnant until just before her daughter was born.
The mother, Katherine Kropas, said that she was on birth control and kept her menstrual cycle, and that she attributed the weight she gained to holiday gluttony.
“I thought I had put on some Christmas season weight,” Kropas told CBS Boston at the time, “but I never thought I was pregnant. Never.”
Helen Cheyne, a Royal College of Midwives professor at the University of Stirling in Scotland, wrote an essay this week about “cryptic pregnancy” or “pregnancy denial,” arguing that such cases “are not particularly rare.”
Cheyne, writing for the Conversation, said some women never experience the telltale symptoms of pregnancy — morning sickness and noticeable weight gain.
“The physiology and psychology of concealed and cryptic pregnancy are different and both are complex,” she wrote. “However, they may be difficult to distinguish in these rare and tragic cases. There are many uncertainties surrounding childbirth and even today many, superficially straightforward aspects of pregnancy and birth remain poorly understood.
“While we may continue to read these news reports with some disbelief, we must ensure that we respect and protect the women behind these tales of the unexpected.”
Authorities in Chula Vista have not determined a cause of death in the most recent case.
Chula Vista police and the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating to determine whether a crime occurred in the newborn’s death.