In 1939, in the remote area of a small Peruvian village, Lina Medina became what historians consider the youngest mother in the world at the age of 5. While hard to believe, doctors determined that Lina was physically able to get pregnant due to a rare medical condition called precocious puberty.
Many of the circumstances around the young girl’s pregnancy remain unknown to this day, and her situation has baffled doctors and drawn public attention for the last century.
Lina Medina’s Pregnancy
It was early spring when Lina’s parents noticed their daughter’s engorged stomach. As one of nine kids, the family lived in one of the poorest villages in Peru. But upon discovering their daughter’s stomach, they feared she had a tumor or some other deadly condition.
They rushed her to the closest hospital in Pisco — a two-hour drive through the bumpy roads of Peru’s countryside.
Upon examination by the doctors, it was determined that the cause of Lina’s enlarged stomach wasn’t due to cancer — she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Based on her September birthday, it was determined that Lina got pregnant at the age of 4.
Word began to spread across the world that there was a five-year-old girl in Peru pregnant, as fascination and curiosity took over the world.
Newspapers and reporters from all over the world asked the interview her, and there were scientific institutions that wanted to record her birth for educational purposes. However, Lina and her family adamantly did not want to be a part of the international attention that this was bringing.
Just a few weeks after the pregnancy was discovered by doctors, Lina gave birth to a baby boy via a Caesarian section on May 14, 1939.
The small size of her body didn’t allow for a natural birth, but the baby’s delivery was successful and safe. The baby was named Gerardo, after Dr. Gerardo Lozada, the overseeing doctor on Lina’s case.
Front page headlines worldwide read, “Five-and-Half-Year-old Mother and Baby Reported Doing Well.” Doctors worldwide tried to study and understand how a four-year-old girl could get pregnant and successfully carry a healthy baby to full term.
After giving birth, Lina brought the baby back to their village, where they lived a mostly normal life. Doctors who visited her post-birth determined that Gerardo was a “perfectly normal” baby with an “above normal intelligence.”
For the first several years of baby Gerardo’s life, he was raised to believe that Lina was his sister — not his mother. But when Lina was 15, he discovered that his sister was his mother.
When the doctors delivered Lina’s baby, they confirmed that despite her young age, Lina had fully mature reproductive organs. The genetic condition, called precocious puberty, results in a child’s body developing and changing into that of an adult before age 8 for girls or age 9 for boys.
Precocious puberty affects one in every 10,000 children, it affects girls almost 10 times more frequently. There is no known cause of the condition, but today precocious puberty is treated by giving children synthetic hormones to slow the progress of puberty.
In Lina’s case, there were reports that she had been getting her period since a very young age – some say eight months old, while others reported since she was three years old.
Doctors determined she had started to develop breasts, advanced bone growth, and wide hips for a child of her age. These medical reports helped confirm that Lina’s case was, in fact real, despite many who believed it was made up.
Who was the father?
Despite the attention and speculation around Lina’s pregnancy, there are still several unknown elements of her story, including who the baby’s father is. Lina was sexually abused or raped, but there have been no indications of who might have committed this crime that resulted in the four-year-old getting pregnant.
Lina never told doctors and authorities who got her pregnant; due to her young age, she might not have known who the father was. However, Lina’s father, Tiburelo, was arrested for the incident.
He denied raping his daughter and was later released on the charges after no evidence or statements could corroborate the crime. To this day, there are no additional leads on who raped Lina, but some speculation points to an attack that occurred in her village but remains unproven.
Avoid Media Attention
In the years following Lina’s young pregnancy, countless media outlets and newspapers tried to offer the family large sums of money to participate in a tell-all interview about the situation. However, Lina’s family continuously turned down offers and asked to remain private.
However, medical journals were able to obtain and publish a few photos of Lina during her pregnancy. These records have gone on to be legitimized by pediatric endocrinologists who have studied the precocious puberty condition today.
While some believe the pregnancy was a made-up hoax, her condition has been confirmed by medical professionals and first-hand accounts by doctors who were on Lina’s case.
Lina Gerardo Later in Life
While Gerardo grew up to live a healthy life, he died at age 40 after developing bone marrow disease.
Lina went on to live a quiet life, working as a secretary for Doctor Gerardo, who helped deliver her baby. She eventually got married again to a man named Raul Jurado, and Lina gave birth to another son in her 30s. It is unclear if Lina remains alive today, as she has remained away from the public eye. She would be in her late 80’s.
While knowledge of precocious puberty has grown since the 1930s, Lina’s case still garners curiosity and attention from around the world despite the fact her condition was clearly a result of sexual assault.
Nearly 100 years later, Lina Medina is still the youngest confirmed mother in history.