Baby born ‘pregnant’ with twin fetuses

By on February 13, 2015


Fetus in fetu (photo courtesy of www.jmedicalcasereports.com)
Fetus in fetu (photo courtesy of www.jmedicalcasereports.com)

The Hong Kong Medical Journal reported an incident of a newborn baby girl found to be pregnant with two partially grown fetuses in her abdomen due to “fetus-in-fetu,” an extremely rare medical condition that occurs in only about one in every 500,000 births.

To remove the two fetuses, believed to be at eight to 10 weeks old, the baby girl underwent surgery at three weeks old. After hours of operation, the doctors were successfully able to remove the fetuses. Eight days after the operation, the baby was reported to be recovering well and was discharged from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, also where she was born.

The extracted fetuses, one weighing 14.2 grams and the other 9.3 grams, each had well-organized fetal structures including four limbs, intact skin, rib cage, intestines, anus, ambiguous genitalia, primitive brain tissue and a spinal cord. Their umbilical cords were connected to a common placenta-like mass.

Though the reason behind the abnormality was still unknown, the World Health Organization said that it was possible that the mother of the baby had multiple abortions beforehand. It was also possible that the mother was pregnant with triplets but the surviving baby interred her siblings inside her body.

“Since it is impossible for the little girl to have conceived the pregnancy on her own, the fertilization of the twin fetuses, of course, belongs to her parents, which has gone to the wrong place. It was almost impossible to detect during the prenatal check-up, as the embryo inside the baby was too small,” obstetrics and gynecology specialist Dr. Yu Kai-man said.

There have only been 200 cases of the rare condition recorded in medical literature worldwide. In 2007, a similar incident occurred in the Philippines where a parasitic twin was removed from a two-month-old baby girl after her parents noticed an abnormal growth in her abdomen.  In a popular case in 2003, an identical twin brother with developed hair, arms, fingers, nails, legs, toes, genitals, and a head with a vague face was removed from a seven-year-old boy in Kazakhstan.

The occurrence in Hong Kong, also with unclear cause, was the first documented case of fetus-in-fetu in the city.

With report from Cyra Moraleda