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Imagine being told that the baby in your womb is in fact carrying another baby in his stomach! As bizarre as it may sound, this is exactly what a mom from Mumbra, Maharashtra had to face. The doctors were shocked at the incident, and you too will be super surprised with how and why this happened!
Remember your sonography appointments during pregnancy? The anticipation of watching your baby, listening to his/her heartbeat, and seeing them grow is a joy that perhaps cannot be described in words. But that lingering fear of their wellbeing always remains during every sonography- ‘hope my baby is alright’, ‘hope he is healthy’, ‘hope there are no complications’! Imagine an instance where the answer to this is not only negative, but extremely astonishing and beyond your control whatsoever – scary, right?
In a shocking incident, a 19 year old mom from Mumbai, Maharashtra was appalled to discover that she was in fact carrying twins and that one of her baby was residing INSIDE the other! Yes, to put it in simple words, her newborn baby was pregnant! Not only was this ‘twin’ baby residing inside her newborn, but was slowly feeding off his body too, akin to a parasite!
How a Regular Ultrasound Saved a Baby’s Life!
The mother of this baby had visited the Bilal hospital in Mumbra in early July for her routine ultrasound scan. Her doctor, Dr. Bhavna Thorat, observed something abnormal with the baby. She observed a sac in the baby’s stomach that resembled another foetus. However, she admitted that she had never seen anything like that before and was slightly perplexed! The scans could not provide a clear picture of the mass and therefore she advised the family to get another ultrasound performed on the baby immediately after birth.
Nine days later on July 20th, the baby was delivered. Another round of scans on the newborn’s abdomen followed. What the doctors observed left the entire medical staff in a state of shock! The mother was in fact suffering from one of the rarest cases of the medical condition known as ‘foetus-in-foetu’ – a baby growing inside another!
Foetus-in-foetu is a rare and extremely risky medical condition. In this case, the partially formed foetus was consuming the newborn’s nutrition, feeding on his blood supply, and at the same time, supressing his organ, thus making him battle for his life. The newborn was developing respiratory problems too and had to be shifted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the hospital.
“In post-natal scans, we spotted another half-formed baby with a brain, arm and legs in a foetal sac in the baby’s abdomen. I could see bones of the upper and lower limbs of the foetus. The unique thing about it was I could see a tiny head with the brain inside. However, this parasitic twin didn’t have a skull bone.” said Dr. Thorat.
In a case like this, the foetus draws nutrition from the host’s (in this case the newborn’s) body and therefore the survival of both is extremely difficult. It was hence extremely crucial to remove the unborn twin from the newborn’s abdomen as it posed a risk to the baby’s life.
One day after he was born, the baby was shifted to Thane’s Titan hospital where a team of specialists operated on him. In a critical surgery, they removed a 7cm parasitic twin from the boy’s abdomen. Gynaecologist Neena Nichlani, who was a part of this team, said:
“It is a case of monozygotic twin pregnancy sharing single placenta, where one foetus is wrapped around the other and feeds off its host’s body. It is a very rare condition and this is for the first time I have encountered such a case in my entire medical career.”
There are only about 200 such cases reported worldwide as of now and this was certainly one of the rarest of the rare ones. Fortunately, the surgery was successful and mom and baby are both stable, healthy and doing fine.
What Causes Foetus-in-Foetu?
This rare medical condition can be defined as the presence of one of twins in the body of the other. It is a rare congenital anomaly and was first observed in early 19th century. Despite its prevalence amongst infants, there were instances of it being void of any symptoms until later stages. This particular anomaly has been discussed over time; however, there are no concrete causes or preventive measures for the same. There are broadly two theories that explain this condition.
1. Twin Absorption
Nobody has a definitive answer to how a parasitic twin may develop, however, one of the most common and popular theories suggests that the entire phenomenon begins during the early stages of gestation where one twin absorbs the other in the womb. Since the entire process occurs very early in gestation, experts suggest that it can potentially lead to a miscarriage really early in the pregnancy. However, they also agree with the fact that in such a case perhaps the stronger twin is able to survive and thrive. It is also quite possible that the condition may go unnoticed for decades!
2. Presence of a Tumour
Another theory suggests that this medical condition has been named incorrectly and that the tissue found inside the baby is not actually a twin but a tumour! A teratoma, which is also known as a dermoid cyst, is a highly advanced tumour that can develop human skin, sweat glands, pores and hair. Owing to these unique characteristics, these tumours can also contain cartilage, eye tissue, organ cells and teeth!A senior paediatric surgeon at Sion Hospital in Mumbai, Dr Paras Kothari, said that the foetus-in-foetu anomaly seen in Mumbra was an extremely rare example of deformed conjoined twins. It is estimated that this medical condition affects one in 5 lakh live births. The reason for it, however, is still unknown. What is important to know is that in certain cases this condition can be fatal for the surviving twin.
Watch: A 36 year old man from Nagpur discovered his twin living inside him!
Preventive Measures for a Safe Pregnancy
As the cause of this particular condition is still unknown, there is no specific preventive measure a mother may take to avert this situation. However, there are certain do’s and don’ts that all pregnant moms must follow to ensure they have a healthy 9 month start to a beautiful journey. These tips will also reduce your chances of suffering any foetal deformities.
1. Include Folic Acid in Your Diet
It is recommended by experts that every woman considering conception should consume folic acid supplements for at least 3 times a month before getting pregnant. Lack of requisite amount of folic acid in the diet is one of the reasons for some congenital malformations in foetus. Folic acid should also be an important part of your diet during pregnancy as it helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) and serious birth defects of the spinal cord and the brain. Include lentils, citrus fruits and juices, avocado and nuts in your diet as they are a rich source of folic acid.
2. Maintain Proper Diet
Your diet plays a crucial role in ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Consult your doctor about your nutritional requirements and follow a healthy eating pattern. Limit consumption of industrial processed food and ensure your food is protein and vitamin rich.
Caution: There are a few foods that should not be eaten during pregnancy and therefore it is strictly advised that you refrain from consuming them. Also substances like MSG and artificial sweeteners should be kept at bay.
3. Get a Genetic Assessment Done
In most instances of a birth defect, the reason or the cause remains unknown or difficult to conclude. However, if your or your husband’s family has a history of birth defects, a proper genetic assessment can help in understanding any risk of birth defects that your baby too might be facing. Through these test results, your doctor will be able to diagnose the risk of defects you and your spouse may have so that you could make a well informed decision about the pregnancy. See this guide on prenatal genetic testing to understand more about the tests you need to take to be safe.
4. Don’t Consume Medicines on Your Own
This general practice perhaps becomes 10 times more critical when you are pregnant! Every chemical that enters your body with every pill you pop can have an adverse effect on not just you but your baby too. Even if you have a normal headache, ensure you ask your doctor before taking any medicine.
Watch: Month by month development of a baby in your womb
5. Get an Early HPV Detection Test
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that causes warts in various parts of the human body. Although this virus does not cause any birth defect, it can however cause premature births. Premature babies have underdeveloped lungs and brains that can lead to severe brain or lung impairment. Therefore, it is always safe to be sure and get yourself checked well in advance.
6. Refrain from Smoking or Consumption of Alcohol
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is one serious congenital defect that can absolutely be prevented! The ill effects of this syndrome range from intellectual and behavioural changes to stillbirth. A woman lacks alcohol absorption ability during pregnancy and therefore anything containing alcohol should be strictly avoided. Also, smoking or passive smoking can cause serious defects in the baby. According to a study, if women are isolated from areas containing tobacco, the miscarriage risk would go down by 5%, low birth rate by 8% and stillbirth by 11%.
Foetus-in-foetu is one of the rarest examples of how certain things can be beyond medical realms. However, as mothers, it is important to ensure we do our best for ourselves and our babies – being cautious is the best thing we can do to ensure their safety and wellbeing.