10 bodily functions that continue after death
10. Nail and hair growth
The body doesn't produce more hair and nail tissue, but both of these things do 'grow,' in the days after death, because the skin loses moisture and pulls back, exposing more hair and making nails seem longer.
9. Brain activity (with drugs)
One of the side effects of modern technology is a blurring of the time between life and death. The brain can be almost completely gone, but the heart can keep pumping. If the heart is stopped for a minute, there's no breathing, and the person was dying anyway, most doctors just pronounce people dead while their brain is technically still alive for the next few minutes. Those minutes before the damage is too extensive could be extended, with the right drugs and under the right circumstances, to days.
8. Skin cell growth
This is another function of different parts of the body dying at different rates. Skin cells, which are used to living on the outskirts of the body and grabbing what they can through osmosis, can stay alive for days.
Although rigor mortis stiffens the muscles, it doesn't set in until hours after death. Just after death, muscles relax, causing people to urinate after death.
In the case of dead bodies, the whole thing is helped along by the gas that's produced inside the body. This can happen hours after death.
We forget that we share our bodies with tons of other creatures, many of them beneficial. The bacteria inside your gut don't die just because you do. While plenty of them are parasitic, some of them are great aids to digestion, and do part of the work for us. They keep right on chugging, even when we're dead.
4. Erections and Ejaculation
When the heart stops forcing the blood around the body, it pools in whatever area is lowest. Certain types of muscle cells are activated by calcium ions. After activation, the cells expend energy putting the calcium ions back outside the cell. After death, the membranes become more permeable to calcium and the cells don't expend as much energy to push the ions out, so the muscles contract. This does lead to rigor mortis and can lead to ejaculation.
3. Muscle movement
Although the brain may die, other areas of the nervous system may still be active. Nurses report seeing reflex action, which involves nerves sending signals to the spinal cord and not the brain, leading to muscle twitches and spasms after death.
Rotting happens when bacteria go to work and the proportion of the gas increases. Since we carry most bacteria inside our body, the gas builds up inside. Since rigor mortis stiffens all the muscles, including the ones that work the vocal cords, the combination leads to some very eerie sounds coming from dead bodies. People hear moans, groans, and squeaks coming from the dead.
1. Giving birth
Back in the day when people dropped like flies, a number of women died while pregnant, and sometimes in times that were too cold to give them a burial. This gave rise to a charming little term called 'coffin birth.' The gases building up inside a body, combined with the softening flesh, were said to cause the body to expel the fetus. These events were rare, and caused a lot of rumors, but were documented in times before proper embalming and quick burial.