July 19, 2010
On Mother’s Day, 1939, Lina Medina gave birth to a healthy six pound baby boy. But this was no ordinary pregnancy – the new mother was only five and a half years old.
Medical documentation revealed that Lina had begun showing signs of menstruation when she was eight months old, and she started having regular periods at age three.
Lina’s family did not know of her condition until she was already seven and a half months pregnant. Living in their small Peruvian village, they did not have the technology or money to diagnose the five year old’s bulging belly. However, as the months passed, the family began to worry that little Lina had a fast-growing, life-threatening tumor in her belly, so they carried her into town for medical attention.
After doctor’s confirmed the pregnancy via x-rays and biopsies, Lina’s father explained that before her stomach started to swell, she was having regular periods that all of a sudden stopped. Physicians were stunned by Lina’s pregnancy and were not going to pass up the opportunity to study this medical miracle. They transferred Lina to a hospital in Lima, Peru, so she could be observed at all times.
Due to Lina’s small frame and pelvis, it would have been impossible for her to give birth vaginally. Doctors at the Lima hospital concluded that she would have to have a cesarean section.
In 1941, two years after Lina gave birth, the New York Times published an account of an American psychologist who had examined Lina while visiting South America:
Ms. Kosak said she gave a series of intelligence tests to the child and that on the basis of this study she has no doubt that the child’s age was given correctly.
“Lina is above normal in intelligence and the baby, a boy, is perfectly normal and is physically better developed than the average Mestiza (Spanish Indian) child,” she said. “She thinks of the child as a baby brother and so does the rest of the family.”
Jose Sandoval, an obstetrician who took an interest in Lina Medina’s case and authored a book about her in 2002 said that Lina was a psychologically normal child, that she displayed no other unusual medical symptoms, and that she preferred playing with dolls rather than her own child.
Lina’s boy, named Gerardo, did not learn until he was ten years old that the woman he thought to be his sister was actually his mother. He grew up healthy but died in 1979 at age of 40 of a bone marrow disease. Lina still lives in a poor district of Lima with her husband (who fathered her second son in 1972).