What the doctors initially thought was a cyst, turned out to be something entirely different — the baby inside the womb had a baby growing inside her!
As an expectant mother, you're always worried about whether the little fetus inside you, the one you've already become so attached to, will be born healthy and safely. You do your best to be careful with your diet and lifestyle, hoping that your soon-to-be newborn beat the odds of developing a condition that could lead to health complications or worse, death.
But even so, there's only so much you can do. So when Columbian mother, Monica Vega, went for her scan at 35 weeks' gestation, she found out that her little girl had a liver cyst. Or so she and the doctor thought, initially. However, things were about to change for not just the mother but for science as well. What the high-risk pregnancy specialist Dr. Miguel Parra-Saavedra and the mother's doctor found out using a color Doppler and 3D/4D ultrasound imaging, was that the “fluid-filled space” wasn't a cyst at all. It actually contained the body of a tiny infant, attached by an umbilical cord to its sister’s intestine.
In essence, this Columbian mother's in utero baby girl was actually pregnant with her twin sister and she even had her own umbilical cord! According to the Daily Mail, this is an incredibly rare example of "fetus-in-fetu" births, something that was first reported in 1808 but seen very few cases since.
However, it was important that they remove the fetus growing inside the baby girl who was named Itzamara. At first, the team of doctors wanted to see if they could hold out as long as possible, to prevent risks associated with premature birth. But in just two weeks, a scan revealed the under-formed twin had grown 20% to 30%, something that posed a threat to Itzamara's health.
Additionally, Monica had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and dangerously high blood pressure that can lead to a stroke during childbirth. Knowing they didn't have much more time left, the team prepared to remove both the baby and the fetus.
A day later at 37 weeks, a cesarean section was performed on the mother because the baby's smaller twin could crush her abdominal organs, the New York Times reported. "Once we cut the umbilical cord [of the attached twin], the baby's life ended because it was surviving off its sister," Dr. Parra-Saavedra explained. The smaller twin had been drawing blood from its larger sibling's intestine, according to Science Alert. Once removed, they found that while the fetus, about 2 inches, had a rudimentary head and limbs, Dr. Parra-Saavedra told The Times it did not form a brain and heart.
Warning: Graphic Image
Thankfully, a month after Itzamara's birth, she was still a healthy baby with no damage to her stomach or other organs. It was "one of the strangest and most fascinating things you can see in maternal-fetal medicine," Dr. Parra-Saavedra told his local paper The Herald.
Though Dr. Parra-Saavedra was stunned, Monica was even more so. "It's difficult explaining to someone that they're experiencing that happens in one in a million because obviously they have never heard of it, ever seen it, and in fact most people don't know this happens," he explained to The Herald. "She was surprised and in disbelief, but after we showed them photos, videos, and scientific evidence they understood the phenomenon and allowed us to go ahead with the necessary steps [to handle it]."
Monica told local media, "I have never heard of anything like this in my entire life. I really did not expect this to happen," quoted Metro UK.
Now, with several months gone by, we hope that Monica and baby Itzamara continue to remain healthy and safe. One thing is for sure though, Itzamara was famous even before she was born. "She has a little scar on her abdomen, but she is a normal baby now except that the whole world is talking about her," Dr. Parra-Saavedra told the Times, quoted USA Today.