Just when we thought we had heard every strange birth story out there, we found out about a baby born in Colombia that gives strange a whole new meaning. A mother gave birth to a little girl who had the fetus of her twin growing inside of her. Yep, the baby was more or less pregnant with her own twin. Mind. Blown.
At 35 weeks pregnant, Monica Vega’s obstetrician told her that her baby appeared to have a liver cyst, according to the Daily Mail. She was then referred to high-risk pregnancy specialist Miguel Parra-Saavedra, MD, who used advanced ultrasound technology to take a closer look. As you may have guessed, he quickly saw it wasn’t a cyst. The fluid-filled space actually contained a tiny infant connected to an umbilical cord that attached to the larger twin’s intestine.
Doctors wanted to wait and see if it would be possible for Vega to carry her baby to term (which would be five more weeks) to avoid risks that come with premature birth. But after two weeks, the underdeveloped twin (who had arms and legs but no heart or brain) had grown between 20% and 30%. If it continued to grow, it could have crushed the healthy baby’s organs, doctors believed.
On February 22, when Vega was 37 weeks pregnant, doctors delivered her baby, who she named Itzamara, by cesarean section. The next day, they removed the fetal twin by laparoscopic (or minimally invasive) surgery. The fetal twin, who was about 2 inches long, died when the umbilical cord was cut.
This rare phenomenon is called a fetus-in-fetu birth and was first described in a British medical journal in 1808. One report estimated that it occurs in about one in every 500,000 births. Though it’s extremely rare, there have been other cases in recent years. It typically happens when twin embryos don’t fully divide, and the larger one absorbs the smaller one.
This case was even more unusual because doctors were able to identify the fetus-in-fetu before the baby was born. Typically, it’s discovered at birth.
Luckily, baby Itzamara is now perfectly healthy. In fact, Dr. Parra-Saavedra told The New York Times, “She has a little scar on her abdomen, but she is a normal baby now except that the whole world is talking about her.”
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