Most pregnancies don’t last much longer than nine months, and even an extra week can feel like a year for pregnant mothers, which is why the longest pregnancy in history is still so shocking.
It takes roughly 280 days, or 9 months, for an unborn baby to develop in its mother’s womb long enough to survive outside of it.
Of course, the exact length of time varies, as many babies are born after their due dates and just as many are born premature.
There are plenty of stories covering extremely premature babies, who lead perfectly normal lives, but it’s actually far more difficult to come across a story about a healthy baby being delivered well after its due date.
To date, the longest recorded pregnancy in history was when 25-year-old Beulah Hunter gave birth to her daughter, Penny Diana, in 1945.
Hunter’s abnormally long pregnancy lasted for 375 days—almost 100 days longer than the average human gestational period—and it is considered the longest pregnancy on record to have produced a living child.
"Dr. Daniel Beltz swore it was true. So did Mrs. Beulah Hunter, 25. And Baby Penny Diana did have a knowing look about her. But other doctors at Los Angeles' Methodist Hospital found it incredible that Mrs. Hunter had been pregnant 375 days (instead of the normal 280) before her baby was born there last week,” according to Time Magazine in 1945.
In response to skeptics, Beltz presented plenty of evidence to support his findings, including a laboratory pregnancy test on March 24 and a confirmation that Hunter’s menstrual cycle had stopped on February 10.
According to Beltz, Hunter’s pregnancy proceeded normally for the first three months, but then there was an "apparent cessation of growth" until the sixth month when the mother felt her baby for the first time. The fetal heartbeat was first discovered in September, but it should have been detected in July.
When Penny Diana was finally born, she weighed just 6 pounds, 15 ounces, which seemed abnormal for a baby that took over a year to be delivered.
Despite the strangeness surrounding the pregnancy, Penny Diana was a perfectly healthy newborn.
Beltz described Hunter’s pregnancy as a slow-developing pregnancy because the baby had grown so slowly inside her mother’s womb.
Although the doctor’s theory matched up with Hunter’s pregnancy timeline, many critics still didn’t believe him.
One widely believed theory at the time was that Hunter had actually suffered a miscarriage after the first few months of her pregnancy and became pregnant again almost immediately.
Beltz practically laughed at those claims, deeming the likelihood of that happening, “Quite impossible.”
Since Hunter’s record-long pregnancy, nobody has even come close to the 375 day mark, but the previous record had been 317 days.