Have you ever heard of this phenomenon that a woman can get pregnant while already being pregnant? Well, according to medical history, such a phenomenon exists, and as a result, a UK woman named Rebecca Roberts, aged 39, who lives in Wiltshire, England got pregnant while already being pregnant under this condition called ‘superfetation’.
Rebecca Roberts and her partner were struggling with infertility for more than a year, so later when they got a positive result, they experienced boundless joy. When Roberts went for her first ultrasound, her obstetrician wrote on her chart that she is going to be the mother of a single child.
“I remember walking away from the very first scan so happy,” tells Roberts. But later, her excitement peculiarly shifted to shock five weeks later at her 12-week ultrasound appointment, when the sonographer spotted something confounding! The couple came to know that Roberts was suddenly carrying two babies – one of which was considerably less-developed than the other. Silence filled the whole room afterward!
“I thought something awful had happened,” Roberts said.
“The sonographer looked at me and said, ‘Do you know you’re expecting twins?’ ”
Later, Roberts learned that she wasn’t having a typical set of twin babies. Her pregnancy was diagnosed as superfetation, a rare condition in which a woman who is already pregnant conceives another baby.
Roberts’s pregnancy is a rare superfetation case recorded in the medical literature
Rebecca Roberts’s obstetrician, David Walker, said that her pregnancy is one of the few superfetation cases recorded in the medical literature. Superfetation is so uncommon that David struggled to diagnose it. In his 25 years working as an obstetrician, Roberts’s case was something David had never encountered before.
“It just doesn’t happen,” David said, adding that it took several scans before he could confidently diagnose the condition.
David explains that he had numerous concerns because the second twin was much smaller. He could trace the rate of growth of the second twin baby through regular scanning and seeing where they found that the smaller twin was three weeks younger. Therefore, they became sure that it was a case of superfetation.
The actual number of superfetation cases is not known, but according to a report published in 2008 in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, it can be observed that fewer than 10 cases of the phenomenon had been recorded.
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Commonly, hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy prevent another conception from occurring, but that was not the case for Roberts! Her obstetrician, David Walker, also explains that instead of stopping ovulation during her pregnancy, Roberts released another egg about three or four weeks after the first one, and the egg somehow miraculously managed to fertilize and implant in her uterus.
Although Roberts was on fertility medication to stimulate ovulation, Walker said he’s “not convinced” that the medication which can increase the chances of having multiples is something that caused the superfetation. “Roberts didn’t release two eggs at the same time, which is what the medication normally does, but there was no other way of proving it one way or another”, also claims David Walker.
While Walker was initially concerned about how Robert’s pregnancy would progress, he said that the rate of growth for both of the babies was good, which was relieving.
When Roberts and her husband came to know of the diagnosis of Superfetation, they were in a state of massive shock!
Roberts and her husband, Rhys Weaver, aged 43, were in a state of massive shock on hearing David Walker about the diagnosis. Roberts explains that while getting back home they took the help of the internet to research more on the matter. Surfing the Web, she said, proved mostly ineffectual because there are minimal data and a few examples of successful superfetation pregnancies. The condition is so rare that alleged cases are sometimes met with cynicism.
“There is very little information because this is not supposed to happen,” Weaver said.
“It was just crazy news.”
While it might not have been the pregnancy that Roberts might have expected, after years of longing for another child, she was thrilled to have not just one but two babies on her way.
Challenges that associated Roberts’s delivery
Given the oddity of the condition, coupled with Roberts’s age and the common risks associated with carrying twins, her pregnancy brought some challenges, particularly during the third trimester. She and her partner were told that the younger baby might not survive.
“Anything that can go wrong with pregnancy is more common with twin pregnancies, but with a three-week difference, you don’t want to compromise the smaller twin by delivering too early. You have to keep a really close eye. The delivery was crucial in this case”, said David Walker.
Roberts was aware of the fact that preterm labor was probable, hence she was worried regarding the safety of her smaller baby. At just over 33 weeks into her pregnancy, the smaller fetus’s umbilical cord was not functioning normally, which started to affect the baby’s growth. Doctors decided it was the time that her delivery must be done!
Although Roberts’s children had different due dates, she had a cesarean section and gave birth to both babies on 17th September 2020. Noah came first, weighing 4 pounds, 10 ounces, and two minutes later, his younger sister, Rosalie, arrived, weighing 2 pounds, 7 ounces.
“We got to see both of them as soon as they were born,” Roberts said.
“It was absolutely beautiful.”
One of the best feelings for Roberts and her husband
As soon as Roberts’s babies were born, both got shifted away to the neonatal intensive care unit. Noah remained in the hospital for over three weeks, while Rosalie stayed for 95 days.
Roberts and her partner drove to the hospital every day to visit their children until Christmas 2020 when they were given the go-ahead to bring Rosalie home.
“We could finally get on and start our lives. It felt like we were on hold having them in the hospital,” said Roberts, who designs children’s clothing.
Roberts now explains that taking care of both of her twins, who are now almost 6 months older has not been easy, especially, during these unprecedented times of COVID and work from home schedule, but she feels overwhelmed to watch her babies grow.
Due to pregnant superfetation, Roberts’s twins were born on the same day, their age difference is clearly noticeable!
Roberts and her partner have been documenting their babies’ growth over the past few months on an Instagram page, and thousands of people around the world, fascinated by their story, are following them!
– Graphical Content and Written Content Prepared By Kashish Rai (Twitter: @KaafyyFilmyy)