Anyone who has given birth knows that nothing rarely goes according to plan. But for one mother, things took a dramatic turn when her baby was born with their twin inside of them.
The baby girl, named Itzmara, was delivered via cesarean section in March in Barranquilla, Colombia. But the delivery turned out to be anything other than ordinary. When the mother, Monica Vega, was seven months pregnant, doctors discovered a second umbilical cord inside her. They were able to deduce that Itzmara had absorbed her twin while still in the womb, thus necessitating the baby to have an emergency c-section immediately after her birth in order to remove the parasitic twin.
Although this situation sounds unbelievable, Fetus in Fetu (FIF) is a rare development abnormality that occurs when a mass of tissue resembling a fetus is absorbed by an unborn baby. The phenomenon was first recorded in 1808 by George William Young. This condition occurs in approximately 1 in 500,000 births.
Fetus in fetu often requires immediate medical intervention, as in the case of baby Itzmara. Doctors worried the mass would grow and harm the baby’s organs. When the malformed fetus was removed, doctors discovered it had no heart or brain. Reports confirm that baby Itzmara is in good health following the procedure.
However, in some cases, FIF goes undetected and untreated. This past August, for instance, a 17-year old girl in India showed up to a hospital with severe abdominal pain stemming from a lump that doctors had identified in her five years prior. However, following further examination, it became clear the lump was caused by a parasitic twin in her womb that had never been removed. They were able to remove the mass via surgery, which they discovered had extended from her liver to pelvic bone. Luckily, the condition did not cause any damage to the girl’s internal organs.
The exact cause of FIF is unknown, though there are various theories trying to explain this phenomenon. One theory suggests that the mass starts off as a normal fetus, and if it developed regularly, the mother would have had two babies instead of one. But the second twin gradually becomes weaker as the first takes up all the nutrients before eventually enveloping the weaker fetus. However, other theories believe the mass is actually a highly developed tumour and not actually a viable fetus.