Julia and her husband Todd had been dealing with infertility for the over 3 years. They had given up almost all hopes of conception and were considering adopting a baby when they finally received the GOOD NEWS. The test results came in positive and Julia and Todd couldn’t be happier. But something very strange happened when they went for their ultrasound.
Julia Grovenburg, was pregnant with a baby girl, but then discovered that another smaller baby boy, was also growing beside her. She had conceived twice in a matter of few weeks!!
Believe it or not: Getting pregnant when you’re already pregnant is a possibility
Can a woman get pregnant when she is already pregnant? In other words, can a woman have two foetuses in her uterus at different stages of development?
Yes, it is possible though very rare. The technical term for this phenomenon is ‘superfetation’.
Nearly two thousand years ago, Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher pondered over this topic but this was with regards to the animal – Hare.
He noticed that when a hare gave birth the babies would fall into two distinct classes: there would be a bunch of full-sized healthy baby hares, and another bunch of skinny weak baby hares.
Though there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the smaller, skinny offspring, Aristotle thought, that they were just under-nourished because they have not spent enough time growing in their mother’s uterus. And he was damn right.
Why is superfetation so rare?
Generally in humans, there are three separate barriers to stop a female from getting pregnant again if she is already pregnant:
- The first being the hormonal changes after conception- that stops the ovaries from releasing another egg.
- The second barrier is physical – a mucous plug. Almost just after conception, a plug forms in the cervix and sits at the top of the vagina. This plug stops the entry of any other sperm in the uterus and getting to a second egg.
- Third, there are physical and chemical changes that take place in the inner lining of the uterus in pregnancy. These changes stop the second fertilised egg from attaching to the uterine wall.
Could superfetation happen to you?
Superfetation is an exception in humans, with fewer than a dozen cases in the medical literature.
A classic case of superfetation is of Julia Grovenburg, a 31-year-old woman from Arkansas.
Ms. Grovenburg and her partner had been trying to get pregnant for three years, and had begun to consider adoption of a child.
But astonishingly she conceived twice in 2009 — a few weeks apart!!
Somehow, Ms. Grovenburg got pregnant, but then things went odd. Her ultrasound showed two independent babies, each growing in their own separate amniotic sac. But one was much larger and more developed than the other.
Regular ultrasounds scans of Ms. Grovenburg showed that both foetuses seemed to be growing normally and healthily. This meant that Ms. Grovenburg conceived a second baby a few weeks after becoming pregnant with the first.
Is there a research that explains what happened with Ms. Grovenburg?
No we do not have any concrete proof about Ms. Grovenbury’s situation. A series of ultrasound scans will be required to prove that.
Scans will help document a series of changes — starting with no foetus or amniotic sac in the uterus, and then a single foetus in a single amniotic sac, and a second foetus appearing in its own second amniotic sac after a few weeks.
As people don’t usually get a series of ultrasound scans done immediately after sexual intercourse, so it is hard to document everything mentioned above.
Superfetation is one of the strangest phenomenon that one can come across!