A woman in a coma since a November auto accident gave birth this week to a healthy, full-term baby girl in what doctors say may be the only recent case of its type.
Chastity Cooper, 24, of Warsaw, Ky., gave birth to Alexis Michelle Cooper at University Hospital in Cincinnati on Monday.
"I was just kind of numb after the procedure," said Dr. Michael Hnat, an obstetrician who deals with high-risk pregnancies. "I didn't know whether to sit down and cry, or be glad that the baby's healthy and be thankful that everything went OK.
"It's probably the only known pregnancy that has lasted this long in a woman with a coma," Hnat said. "Chastity did a lot of the work because the baby grew and it's a healthy baby girl."
Alexis weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces at birth, appeared to doctors to be perfectly healthy, and left the hospital on Wednesday to join her father, Steve Cooper, 24, and her two brothers, ages 4 and 3.
"It was like magic," Steve Cooper said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "She's precious. We waited for this baby a long time and she's absolutely adorable."
Months After Accident
Chastity Cooper has been in a coma since suffering a severe head injury in a Nov. 25 auto accident. She has improved slightly since, sometimes opening her eyes and looking at people when they talk to her, Hnat said.
Doctors realized Cooper was two weeks pregnant soon after her arrival. Not even her husband knew at the time.
"He's very supportive and he visits Chastity every day," Hnat said. "From day one, we gave him his options and he was very supportive of the pregnancy. … He's a super nice guy."
The pregnancy did not seem to complicate Chastity Cooper's condition, Hnat said, although doctors worried about potential problems such as blood clots. They induced her labor perhaps a week prematurely to better manage the birth and Chastity's condition.
"She had a history of fast labor and we just induced her because her blood pressure began to climb," Hnat said. "As time went on she became a little bit more responsive and we could tell when she was in pain."
Hnat said that with Chastity only semiconscious, the birth was bittersweet.
"The baby's delivered and the mother doesn't realize what's going on," he said. "Hopefully, she does. … It's a happy time but it's also a sad time."
Steve Cooper thinks she knew.
"I laid the baby on her side," he said. "She just smiled. It's a little hard to believe. They just stared at each other. It seemed like there was a bond between mother and baby."
Tendency Toward Premature Births
Dr. Winston Campbell — a doctor at the University of Connecticut Medical Center who has searched medical records from 1977 to 1999 for cases of women who went into comas or semiconscious states while pregnant — said he knew of no case where the mother was able to deliver a full-term baby.
He and his co-researcher, Dr. Deborah Feldman, found records on eight such cases, plus a ninth case he worked on himself. Most of the cases resulted in viable babies, but each was at least several weeks premature. In each case, he said, "something happened — some problem that [doctors] felt they could not control any longer."
He said it is possible additional cases went unreported or undiscovered by his study.
In one case in Rochester, N.Y., in 1996, a car accident victim who had been in a coma for a decade was sexually assaulted in a nursing home, and gave birth to a healthy child two months prematurely.
ABCNEWS' Michael S. James and Geoff Morrell contributed to this report.