While the world is facing global warming, terrorism and so on, elsewhere strange natural events are taking place in the medical world. One of these is fetus-in-fetu or a baby being born with her sibling!
None who have seen it can forget Aunt Voula (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) casually describing her lump/twin to the prospective groom’s parents before serving them a plate of clumpy snacks. Hearing someone talk about bearing their own twin can churn anyone’s stomach but this rare occurrence is very real and well documented in medicine and fiction!
So let’s talk about big brother China. There is no shortage of controversies in the mainland! The most shocking incident to have occurred is the case of newborn girl from Hong Kong who underwent a surgery at mere three weeks in order to extract the fetuses. Both the fetuses were thought to be at 8 to10 weeks of gestation! A baby pregnant with twins comes out of her mother’s womb! Need I go on?
What could be creepier than delivering a baby who also has babies! Well, nothing really comes to mind. This condition is said to occur 1 in among 500,000 births! In India, our popular cinemas play out tragedy with blame game where in the mother –in-law accuses the daughter in law of causing the death of her son with the apne pati ko kha gayi phrase.
But the baby here has done the same to her siblings, unintentionally of course! The mother (not the baby) was thought to carry triplets, but doctors say that the alive baby (who was born mother) somehow managed to entomb her other two counterparts inside her body. So the pregnancy of the mother occurred in the right as well as wrong place (go figure!) The baby was lucky to have the condition detected early on. Usually, it is noticed after the parasitic twin grows so large that it causes discomfort to the host-parent-sibling.
However, the doctors were able to successfully remove the 2 fetuses from the three week old baby and all is well. The twins, surprisingly, grew quite a bit in there. Each of them had four limbs, a spine, rib cage, intestines, and anus, but different in weight. The twins weighed 14.2 grams and 9.3 grams, and each had an umbilical cord connected to a single placenta-like mass.
Another Chinese girl had a twin growing out of her back, with a protruding arm and a breast (No more Chinese food for me!) Doctors are of the opinion that such cases may be prevented with testing done in early gestation. Standard ultrasounds are typically done between 18-20 weeks of pregnancy. So by then your twin may go undetected.
India had its case of the pregnant man – a farmer Sanju Bhagat from Nagpur – who found his long lost twin not in the kumb mela as Bollywood would have us believe, but inside his bulging stomach, way back in 1999!. In Bhagat’s case, the dead twin was pushing against his diaphragm, making it difficult for him to catch his breath. Finally, he was rushed to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India for an emergency surgery.
While the doctors were convinced that they were treating him for an enormous tumor growth, they were in for big surprise when they found lot of bones in his belly. The mass had limbs, some genitalia, hair, fingernails and jaws (a scene straight out of a Stephen King novel).
In the end, the pregnant man lost his baby bump, though he had lost his baby brother long ago!
Not too far behind is Pakistan which also had its case of fetus-in-fetu in 2006, where doctors removed two fetuses from a two-month-old girl named Nazia. So far there have been less than a 1000 cases in the medical literature of this rare condition.
The curious cause of the baby girl from Hong Kong is still under investigation (Can you explain it, Dr. House?) but the baby in question was discharged eight days after her surgery and is recovering well. One can’t imagine what would be her reaction to this news when she grows up but I’d say she has a good fertility rate.