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One in half a million: Girl born in Israel with twin inside her stomach

Doctors swiftly remove remains of what was at least one sibling from baby; mother and daughter healthy

An X-ray showing the stomach of a newborn baby girl who was found to have an embryo inside her, July 2021. (Assuta Medical Center)
An X-ray showing the stomach of a newborn baby girl who was found to have an embryo inside her, July 2021. (Assuta Medical Center)

A baby girl was born in Israel with an embryo inside her stomach, in an extreme medical rarity that astounded doctors.

The girl was born earlier this month at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, the hospital said Tuesday.

Cases of fetus-in-fetu occur only about once in every 500,000 births.

Checks and ultrasounds in the late stages of the pregnancy had already identified that the girl’s stomach was enlarged, and following her natural birth doctors carefully examined her and confirmed that there was something inside the newborn.

She was immediately given a battery of further examinations including ultrasounds and an X-ray.

“We were surprised to discover that it was an embryo,” Omer Globus, director of neonatology at Assuta, said.

A team of the medical center’s top experts carried out the operation, eventually removing two similar sacs from the girl’s stomach.

“We think that there was more than one there, and we are still checking that,” he said.

Globus stressed that the remains were not a fully formed embryo, but rather an embryo that only partially developed. Doctors were able to see some bones and a heart, he said.

“But it did not look like an embryo as you imagine it,” he said.

The operation was successful and the girl is expected to make a full recovery, Globus said. Both the girl and her mother, who has three other children, have already been sent home.

Globus said there are a number of theories as to how such cases occur, with one being that the pregnancy starts off as twins but then one of the embryos is absorbed by the other.

“It happens as part of the fetal development process when there are cavities that close during development and one of the embryos enters such a space,” he said. “The fetus inside partially develops but does not live and remains there.”

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