- Woman in England gets pregnant while already pregnant
- Woman’s obstetrician said he has never seen this in his 25 years of career
- Rebecca Roberts and her partner struggled with infertility for more than a year
Rebecca Roberts, a 39 year old woman from England, and her partner struggled with infertility for over a year, and when they got a positive result with an at-home pregnancy test, they were overjoyed.
However, the news did not feel real until the first ultrasound appointment, when the couple saw their baby on a sonogram screen and listened to the calming cadence of a steady heartbeat.
On Roberts’s medical chart, her obstetrician wrote: singleton.
“I remember walking away from the very first scan so happy,” said Roberts, 39, who lives in Wiltshire, England.
Her excitement, though, was short lived and soon turned into shock 5 weeks later at the 12-week ultrasound appointment, when the sonographer spotted something astonishing: It appeared as though Roberts was suddenly carrying two babies – one of which was considerably less-developed than the other. The room fell silent.
Roberts said, “I thought something awful had happened,” and added, “The sonographer looked at me and was like, ‘Do you know you’re expecting twins?’”
This is not a typical set of twins, Roberts learned. Her pregnancy was diagnosed as superfetation, a rare condition in which a woman who is already pregnant conceives another baby.
Roberts’s pregnancy is one of few superfetation cases recorded in medical literature, said her obstetrician, Dr David Walker.
Superfetation is so rare that Dr Walker struggled to diagnose it. He said that in his 25 years as an obstetrician, it was something he had never seen before.
Dr Walker said, “It just doesn’t happen,” and added that it took several scans before he could confidently diagnose the condition.
He explained, “We were concerned because the second twin was much smaller. It was only by regularly scanning and seeing that the rate of growth was consistently three weeks behind that we realized it was superfetation”.
Though the exact number of cases of superfetation is not known, however, as per the report published in 2008 in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, less than 10 instances of this phenomenon had been recorded at the time.
Under normal condition, hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy prevent another conception from occurring, but this was not the case for Roberts.
Dr Walker said, “Instead of stopping ovulation, she 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.”
Even though Roberts was on the fertility drug to stimulate ovulation, Dr Walker said he is “not convinced” that the medication, which can increase the chances of having multiples, is the reason behind the superfetation.
Dr Walker said, “She didn’t release two eggs at the same time, which is what the medication normally does,” while adding, “But we have no way of proving it one way or another.”
While Dr Walker was concerned initially about how this pregnancy would progress, he later said, “the rate of growth for both of the babies was good, which was reassuring.”
When he gave his diagnosis to Roberts and her partner Rhys Weaver, 43, “it was a massive shock,” said Roberts, who also has a 15-year-old daughter.
She said, “We went home and got straight onto Google.”
She said as she surfed the internet, nothing materialistic came to hand as there is minimal research and just a few examples of successful superfetation pregnancies.
The condition is so rare that alleged cases are sometimes met with cynicism.
Weaver said, “There is very little information, because this is not supposed to happen,” and added, “It was just crazy news.”
Though over time the notion of carrying two separately conceived babies began to normalize, Roberts said. Even though it might not have been the pregnancy she expected, after years of longing for another child, she was thrilled to have not just one but two on the way.
Owing to the rarity of this condition, coupled with Roberts’s age and the common risks associated with carrying twins, the pregnancy did carry some challenges of its own, particularly during the third trimester.
The couple were told that the younger baby might not survive.
Dr Walker said, “Anything that can go wrong with a 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.”
Roberts knew that preterm labour was a possibility, so ensuring that the younger baby was far along enough before birth “was a really massive worry for us,” she said.
When she was just a little over 33 weeks into the pregnancy, it was found that the umbilical cord of the smaller fetus was not functioning normally, which started to affect the baby’s growth. Doctors decided it was time to deliver.
Although Roberts’s children had different due dates, she had a Caesarean section also known as the C-section and gave birth to both babies on 17th September. Noah came first, weighing 4 pounds, 10 ounces (2.15 kg). Two minutes later, his younger sister, Rosalie, arrived, weighing 2 pounds, 7 ounces (2 kg).
Roberts said, “We got to see both of them as soon as they were born, It was absolutely beautiful.”
Weaver said, “One of the best feelings I’ve ever had”.
The initial bonding time of the family was short lived as both the babies were rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit. Noah remained in the hospital for just over three weeks, while Rosalie stayed for 95 days.
The couple used to drive to the hospital every day to visit their children until just before Christmas when they were given the go-ahead to bring Rosalie home.
Robers, children’s clothing designer, said, “We could finally get on and start our lives. It felt like we were on hold having them in the hospital”.
Taking care of twins, who are almost 6 months old now, has been a whirlwind for the couple, especially during the pandemic lockdown and while working from home.
However, Roberts said it has made her heart full to watch the babies grow and develop over the past few months.
She said, “Even though they were born on the same day, there’s definitely an age difference between them,” she added. “It’s noticeable.”
Rosalie is much smaller and less advanced than her brother, “but she’s catching up to him fast,” said Weaver who is a mortgage adviser
Regardless of their developmental differences, the twin bond is unmistakable, the couple said.
Roberts said, “When we lay them down next to each other on their play mat, they look at each other, reach out and touch each other, and talk to each other as well.
“It is so beautiful to watch.”
Both Roberts and Weaver have been documenting the twins’ growth over the past few months on an Instagram page, and thousands of people from all around the globe, fascinated by their story, are following along.
“We want people to be able to continue to watch as they grow up,” said Roberts.
“Miracles can happen, and my children are proof of that.”