The saying goes that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. And while some people may be able to avoid taxes, no one can avoid death. Mass-produced television hospital dramas often portray death as a serene drop-off in a heart-rate monitor. But there’s more that happens after you die. In fact, death is anything but serene. As soon as our heart stops beating – the first stage of death – the rest of our body starts deteriorating, albeit at different rates according to which stage decomposition is in. The rates at which our bodies break down depend on a variety of factors, including the environment, the circumstances of death, and the condition of our individual bodies.
In this list, we’ll explore what happens to the body once the heart stops beating – namely, what happens to our bodies when we die. A bit macabre but definitely fascinating, this list digs up some of the creepiest things that happen to our bodies after we die, including liquefaction of our internal organs and even instances of a recently-deceased pregnant woman giving birth to a live baby! To find out these and other things that happen to a decomposing body, check out this list of 25 Things That Happen to Your Body After You Die.
The heart stops beating and blood pools
The moment the heart stops beating is what doctors officially regard as the time of death. Once it stops, the rest of the body begins to die, albeit at different rates. With the heart no longer pumping, the first thing to happen in the process of death is that our blood stops flowing and pools wherever it is in our veins and arteries.
Our bodies change colors
With our blood suddenly non-mobile, our bodies begin to change color. Part of our bodies change to purplish-red or bluish-purple because the blood settles, due to gravity, in the lowest part of our bodies. Other parts turn deathly pale, since the blood (reduced hemoglobin, to be exact) is less concentrated or more drained in those areas.
Livor mortis helps forensics solve cases
Forensic investigators can use this phenomenon, known as livor mortis, to tell if a body has been moved since death because after death our blood congeals in our blood vessels, like a layer of fat which congeals on top of homemade stock or fried foods.
Algor mortis cools the body temperature
The second most popular form of mortis, algor mortis is next thing that happens to our bodies when we die. Known as “death chill”, our bodies lose their 98.6°F (37°C) warmth and slowly acclimate to the ambient room temperature, losing about 1.5°F (0.8°C) per hour.
Rigor mortis sets in
The better-known rigor mortis does not happen until a few hours after the moment of death. The process starts with the eyelids and neck muscles, followed by the entire body, stiffening up due to the depletion of ATP (adenosine triphosphate): the chemical responsible for relaxing muscle fibers after a contraction.