Woman gives birth after comatose pregnancy

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CINCINNATI — A car-crash victim who was in a coma virtually her entire pregnancy has given birth to a healthy, nearly 8-pound daughter.

Doctors said it is one of few known cases in the United States in which a comatose woman was able to carry a baby to full term.

The mother, Chastity Cooper, 23, has slowly improved since her November car accident but still cannot move or talk. She is in a vegetative state, able to open her eyes and follow people around the room.

Her daughter, Alexis Michelle, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, was born Monday at University Hospital.

"It went really well, better than expected," Dr. Michael Hnat, a neonatologist, said of the four-hour delivery. "I just hope that one day she wakes up to see her baby and hopefully remembers being pregnant."

Steve Cooper showed his daughter off at a news conference Wednesday. The couple also have two sons, ages 4 and 3.

"She's precious. We waited for this baby a long time and she's absolutely adorable," he said.

Chastity Cooper, of Erlanger, Ky., suffered head injuries Nov. 25 when her car slid into the path of another car on a slick road. She was on her way to meet her husband at a family gathering. Routine tests done in the emergency room revealed that she was two weeks pregnant.

The baby was delivered vaginally. Doctors ruled out a Cesarean section because of the risks of anesthesia and the potential difficulties of healing after the surgery.

Instead, doctors gave Cooper medication to induce labor and relax her muscles and joints so she could be put in the proper position to deliver the baby.

During the pregnancy, doctors were concerned mainly with making sure Cooper had enough nutrition for the baby to gain weight and grow, said Dr. Baha Sibai, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati.

They also had to monitor her carefully for signs of labor, since she could not tell them if she was having contractions.

Dr. Winston Campbell, director of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Connecticut, said he and his colleagues could find only eight reported U.S. cases since 1977 in which women went into comas while pregnant. None of the babies were carried to full term, he said.

In March, a Garland, Texas, woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl while in a two-month coma induced by a car accident. The baby was two months premature.