A MUM has given birth to a “pregnant” baby – who needed an emergency cesarean section at just one day old.
Doctors noticed Mónica Vega, of Barranquilla, Colombia, had two umbilical cords during an ultrasound two months before she was due to give birth.
But sadly it wasn’t because she was expecting twins, Mamás Latinas reported in March.
Instead, her unborn baby girl had absorbed the other fetus in the womb which had then attached to her via an umbilical cord.
It’s an extremely rare developmental abnormality known as “fetus in fetu” – more commonly referred to as a parasitic twin.
The condition occurs when an identical twin stops growing during gestation, but is physically attached to the fully developing twin.
Ms Vega’s doctors told her they needed to deliver immediately as they were worried the parasitic twin could grow and injure the developing baby’s organs.
She had an emergency C-section and named the newborn Itzmara.
Just 24 hours later, the baby girl underwent her own C-section to remove the mass, which had no heart or brain.
The operation was a success and doctors said Itzmara is expected to have no further complications, it was reported.
A fetus in fetu occurs only in one of every 500,000 births and there have been just 200 reported cases, according to a 2010 report from the National Institutes of Health.
Cases tend to be ultra-rare thanks to advances in ultrasound technology which means that they are usually detected during pregnancy.
If a twin is detected inside its living sibling they are removed soon after birth.
However, there are cases where this can be missed and the twin can grow up with the tumour inside for years.
In a case report by the British Medical Journal in August, a 17-year-old Indian girl sought medical help over a stomach lump she’d had for the past five years that was increasing in size.
What is a parasitic twin?
A parasitic twin is an identical twin that has stopped developing during gestation, but is physically attached to the fully developing twin, known as the dominant or autosite twin.
The parasitic twin never completes development and rarely, if ever, do they have a complete brain or functional heart.
They usually don’t share organs with the dominant twin and can’t survive on their own.
In some cases, the dominant twin looks like a normally developed baby with extra limbs or unrecognisable protrusions.
Without treatment, this twin may develop severe health problems from the efforts of supporting the parasitic twin.
As they are so rare, researchers have a long way to go to understand how it fully happens.
Identical twins come from a single fertilized egg that splits in two shortly after fertilization. The result is two separate fetuses. If the egg fails to fully separate, the result is conjoined twins.
Sometimes, one of the fetuses is partially absorbed by the other in early pregnancy. The partially absorbed fetus stops developing and becomes parasitic. The other twin continues to develop normally and becomes dominant.
After she complained of abdominal pain and was unable to eat large meals, tests revealed the lump contained “multiple teeth” and “hairs, mature bones and other body parts” from the teen’s parasitic twin she had absorbed in the womb.
Doctors successfully removed the mass, which measured more than 30cm in length and 16cm in width, and the patient made a full recovery.
The teen, who hasn’t been named, told the BMJ: “I was much worried about my abdominal lump. After operation I am feeling very well and my abdomen is now flat and my parents are also very happy.
“Thanks to all operating doctors.”
Most reported adult cases of foetus in fetu occur in men, with a parasitic twin discovered inside a 47-year-old male in 1992.
In a British case, also reported in August, a mum claimed she was nine months pregnant when doctors discovered a mass containing teeth, nails and hair from her own twin.
Hannah Bridgewater, 29, said that medics initially thought it was the parasitic twin of her unborn baby, but found they were too old for that to be the case.
It meant they had to belong to Hannah’s own twin which she had carried inside her body without realising it since before she was born.
One of the oldest cases is believed to be an Italian man who was 47 when doctors found a fetus in his upper abdomen in the early 1990s.