The age when women bear their first child has been rising steadily in recent decades, especially in the USA; the average age for becoming a mother was about 21 years in 1970, but rose to almost 27 in 2018. Simultaneously, first-time fathers were about 27 on average around 1970 and 31 on average in 2018. Modern medicine noticeably pushed the biological clock, making first-time parents older nowadays; National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 22.3% of women aged 35 and later became mothers in 2016, whereas only about 6.2% did so in 1980. Factors such as rising inflation, higher costs of living, and the improved ability to pursue a career or education contributed to late births.
However, sporadic cases on the opposite end include girls with precocious puberty, a rare condition when they exhibit signs of puberty before turning seven or eight. For reference, the typical age of puberty in girls is eight to 13. Girls who give birth at those ages are in nearly all cases victims of sexual abuse, and their children have a higher chance of fatal abnormalities or congenital disabilities. However, there are rarer cases among girls who carry their pregnancy to term, and their children survive and live somewhat ordinary lives.
Youngest Mom in History. Lina Medina was was just 5 years, 7 months, when she gave birth to her 2.7 kg (6.0 lb) son.
Lina Medina, a Peruvian girl, holds the world record as the youngest person to give birth, aged five years, seven months, and 21 days. Her son Gerardo, born weighing 6lbs or 2.7kgs on 14 May 1939, was named after the doctor who performed the caesarian section. She was mainly unaware of her situation, but her case was well documented from a medical standpoint. Additionally, Lina’s husband, Raúl Jurado, whom she married in the 1970s, provided additional insight into her life decades later. Here’s what happened.
She got little help and recognition
Much of Lina’s pregnancy cause is a mystery. She never revealed her child’s father, and presumably didn’t know the answer. Doctors suspected Lina’s father of impregnation, and he was arrested but released due to the lack of proof. Moreover, the exact cause of her early first menstruation and maturity of her sexual organs is unclear, although it likely had to do with the sexual abuse that she suffered. Lina never sought publicity after giving birth, and received no help from the Peruvian government.
She had a decent life for at least three decades, thanks to the doctor who documented her case and delivered Gerardo; he took them in and hired Lina as his secretary. Although he was born healthy and had no significant issues, Gerardo died at 40 in 1979 from a bone marrow disease, and Lina, if alive, will turn 90 in September 2023. That means that potential genetics research, such as establishing Gerardo’s paternal lineage, will likely happen posthumously.
Lina was born in a small village
Lina Marcela Medina de Jurado was born on 23 September 1933, in a remote part of Peru, the village named Ticrapo; its eponymous district is one of 13 that make up the Castrovirreyna Province. Her parents, Victoria Losea and silversmith Tiburelo Medina had nine children. Not much is known about her life in the village, but its remoteness is evident from later recollections. Some scientific documentation, including a few films about her pregnancy and birth, fell into the river during a visit to her hometown and were never recovered.
Doctors suspected a tumor
The first signs of Lina’s condition became apparent when her stomach grew, and she complained of abdominal pain. It’s unclear how long this lasted; Lina’s village is in the mountainous part of the Andes in South America, so getting to the medical center in Pisco, the Pisco Province capital, took time and considerable effort. Thankfully, the doctors took her ailment seriously and did the necessary tests as they suspected that she had a rapidly-growing tumor.
However, they were shocked to discover that Lina was seven months pregnant. Dr Gerardo Lozada had several specialists from the country’s capital investigate the case and confirm her pregnancy. About one in 10,000 children have precocious puberty, and girls have a 10 times higher chance of having the condition than boys. That means that their breasts develop prematurely, and their first period happens much sooner. Moreover, studies suggest that sexual contact at a young age might trigger the accelerated development of sexual organs.
They performed a C-section
Lina gave birth to a healthy male child, Gerardo, six weeks after the first diagnosis, slightly before the typical nine-month pregnancy duration. Doctors established that her sexual organs matured because she entered puberty earlier than usual, however, her pelvis was understandably small, which required a caesarian birth for her safety and that of her son. Dr Gerardo performed the surgical operation alongside a colleague, Dr Busalleu, and an anesthesiologist Dr Colareta.
Doctors created plenty of medical documentation, including biopsies, photographs of her, and X-rays of the fetal skeleton in her womb. Two photos of her pregnancy were published, but only one is widespread, dating to early April 1939, about four weeks before she gave birth. It shows her left side, and she is naked in front of a neutral backdrop, with her stomach visibly pregnant.
A doctor named Edmundo Escomel collected the documentation, and published his report in the French medical journal La Presse Médicale, which still exists, while Dr Gerardo presented her case in front of the National Academy of Medicine in Peru. They discovered that Lina had her first menstruation at eight months, contradicting the rumors that she had had regular periods since she was two and a half or three years old.
Media wanted access
The case fascinated medical professionals and academics, and the news spread; although initially believed to be a hoax, medical documentation proved the authenticity of Lina’s pregnancy. A Texas-based newspaper, The San Antonio Light, reported on 16 July 1939 that a local midwife and obstetrician association wanted to send her to a national maternity hospital, but Dr Gerardo insisted on keeping her under his watch. Moreover, the country’s paper La Crónica published a report that an American film studio was interested in obtaining the filming rights. However, Dr Gerardo and Lina’s family declined the reported US$5,000 offer.
Her father was accused of sexual abuse
Media was first captivated by the potential complications, and Lina’s unusual ability to carry a pregnancy for so long without medical supervision, then give birth to a healthy boy. However, once she and her son were out of the woods and on the mend, the world started asking about paternity. Unfortunately, those questions have never received an answer.
Lina was undeniably sexually abused before her fifth birthday, and the perpetrator would’ve received a harsh sentence in Peru, which is likely why the father’s identity is unknown. Finding a culprit should’ve been easy, considering that she was from a small distant village, and likely didn’t come into contact with many men or boys. Unsurprisingly, her father was the primary suspect, and was arrested and investigated for child sexual abuse. However, law enforcement soon released him, and no one else was charged or accused publicly. Her father always denied the accusations, and one theory is that someone took advantage of her during the festivities in or around her village, using a large crowd as cover.
Lina either did not know her son’s father, or didn’t want to reveal the information. Dr Escomel speculates that the former was the case, as he mentioned in his medical journal that Lina ‘couldn’t give precise responses’ to the question. According to Paul Koask, a specialist in child education at Columbia University, who visited the family when Gerardo was two, Lina was ‘of above normal intelligence and had a perfectly normal baby whom she saw as a little brother, like the rest of the family.’
Dr Gerardo took Lina in
Lina initially stayed with her family, but Dr Gerardo eventually took custody of young Gerardo at his home in Lima, Peru, promising to give him a good life. Lina then lived and worked as a secretary at the doctor’s clinic, and saw her son regularly. She worked in that position from young adulthood to at least age 33, when she was pictured in a business outfit.
Lina preferred to play with dolls over her son, until she was mature enough to understand what had happened. In return, Gerardo thought his mother was his sister until he turned 10. A steady job helped Lina receive her education and support Gerardo, who attended and presumably matriculated from high school.
The youngest person to give birth was only 5 years old.
— 𝙰𝚗𝚊 𝙼. (@gypssai) May 1, 2022
Lina refused interviews
Lina married her first and only known husband, Raúl, in the 1970s, and had a second son in 1972, whose name and status were unknown, a very much younger half-brother to Gerardo, but who died in 1979. Her case continued to captivate people for decades, but Lina wasn’t interested in discussing her past. Raúl commented briefly on the issue, and explained that she had a financial incentive to give interviews, especially when a renowned news agency, Reuters, asked for one in 2002.
He said in a 2003 conversation with Telegraph India, that Lina prioritized personal values over profit, and that besides Dr Gerardo, no one gave her help that he knew of, so she was disappointed in the government. He said that they lived in a cramped house in a poor, crime-ridden district of Peru. Additional research revealed this area to be entitled Little Chicago, a name perhaps given due to an association with a Chicago-based criminal organization, Chicago Outfit. An obstetrician Jose Sandoval wrote a book, “Mother Aged 5,” and published it in 2002, although it became more popular in 2020 as an Amazon Kindle e-book. She investigated Lina’s life and concluded that the government caused her and her children to live in poverty. and that they would’ve received special care if they lived in a different country. However, she noted that it wasn’t too late to fix some of the damage caused to her.
Peru promised help
When Jose brought attention to Lina’s life story, the news reached the office of First Lady Eliane Karp, an anthropologist with a professional interest in the issue. Additionally, she could help, as her husband, Alejandro Toledo, served as the President of Peru from 2001 to 2006. However, she wanted Lina to list what she wanted and needed first. Additionally, Eliane said that Lina could be eligible to receive a pension. Unfortunately, Lina presumably distrusted the promise, and never sought or accepted help.
Gerardo’s father won’t be revealed
DNA technology started developing rapidly in the 1970s, decades after Gerardo’s birth; that made solving the mystery of his father nearly impossible until the early 2000s. However, Lina was the biggest obstacle once technology caught up; she refused interviews and would undoubtedly decline to provide a DNA sample, let alone permit the exhumation of her son, who died over four decades ago. Unless doctors saved samples of Gerardo and Lina’s flesh, such as following a surgical operation requiring a biopsy, a laboratory would never perform a paternity test, thus never solving the enigma of Lina’s abuser. That is the likely outcome, based on her opinion of the Peruvian government, and life in poverty.
Her case is so remarkable that the next youngest confirmed mother, an unnamed Peruvian girl, gave birth at eight, precisely several days before her ninth birthday. Furthermore, the girl is the only known mom of that age; all other moms were nine or older, making Lina’s situation even more extraordinary.