5 Strange Pregnancies

Pregnant woman reading
Surprise births and pregnant men are only two of the strange pregnancy stories we're writing about in this article. See more pregnancy pictures.

The back pain, bloating and swollen ankles. The glowing complexion, thick and shiny hair, and the strange cravings. These common symptoms may make it seem like pregnancy is pretty much the same across the board. However, whether it's your first time or your fifth, all pregnancies are different. Some people will tell you there are different symptoms when carrying a girl versus a boy, or different emotional and physical effects between your first time and subsequent pregnancies. But some pregnancies go beyond the differences of carrying low or high, tired or energized -- they're, let's say, strange. First up, what if you were pregnant with your own twin?


5. Pregnant With Your Twin

Beautiful twin babies
Not all twins end up like this cute pair.

OK, so this isn't technically pregnant, but it's a pregnancy complication that is rare but documented in twin gestations: Pregnant with your own twin. Fetus in fetu (literally, baby within baby) is like a host and parasite setup. A set of identical twins is conceived but in the very early stages of the first trimester, something goes wrong with the separation. Sometimes that results in conjoined twins, and in rare instances, it can result in one fetus being absorbed through the umbilical cord and undeveloped abdomen of the other. The absorbed twin does not undergo much development before absorption; generally, it's a mass of cells and maybe body parts. It becomes like a tumor to the surviving twin, a parasite that feeds on the blood supply of the host. Most fetus in fetu cases are discovered when an abdominal mass or tumor is suspected, usually when the surviving twin is still a baby or toddler.


4. I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant

When you're trying to get pregnant, it may seem that everyone around you is suddenly in her third trimester while you wait, month to month, for your happy news. Some women, however, are pregnant but unaware of it -- and we don't mean in the first few weeks of the first trimester.

There are a few reasons women might not be clued in to their pregnancies. Take home pregnancy tests, for example. Home pregnancy tests aren't perfect, especially if used too early in the pregnancy when there hasn't been enough time for the pregnancy hormone levels to build. Monthly periods can be misleading, too. Bleeding can be a common occurrence for some women during their pregnancies. And if your periods aren't regular (because of stress, intense exercise and strict diet, or conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome), this breakthrough bleeding can make you think you're having monthly cycles.


Constipation, gas, mood swings -- if you have no idea that you might be pregnant, all of these can easily be attributed to something else. What about the big one -- weight gain? If a woman is not trying to get pregnant or thinks she's infertile, the cause of pregnancy weight gain might be attributed to recent slacking off in diet and exercise, especially if the woman is heavy naturally or is carrying a small baby.

3. I Thought I Was Pregnant

The National Center for Health Statistics' National Vital Statistics Reports estimate that in 2007, there were more than 4,300,000 births in the United States -- the highest recorded number of American births in one year. But the number of pregnancies, that's much higher. Roughly, one third of all pregnancies end in miscarriage in the early weeks, often before a woman knows she's pregnant, and the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that there's about a 25 percent chance of miscarriage after the pregnancy has been confirmed.

Early pregnancy failure is one reason a woman may think she's pregnant only to find out that the gestational sac she saw on the ultrasound monitor failed to develop -- there is no embryo. This is also known as a blighted ovum. In these cases, the placenta begins to develop, pregnancy hormones are secreted and a pregnancy test will turn positive. By the end of the first trimester, however, the body will expel a blighted ovum.


Chemical pregnancy is another reason a woman may think she's pregnant. During a chemical pregnancy, an egg is fertilized and implants in the uterine wall, but the levels of pregnancy hormones remain low -- although the home pregnancy test turned faintly positive, the pregnancy isn't viable.

2. Vanishing Twin Syndrome

Maybe you've been trying to get pregnant for months or maybe this was a happy accident -- whatever the case, that little stick says you're on your way to motherhood. To determine how far along you are, your doctor may schedule you for a sonogram -- you find out you're about seven weeks into your pregnancy, and also, congratulations, you're having twins! But when you return for your 12-week checkup, there's no sign of Baby B. What's going on? Vanishing twin syndrome.

While the cause of vanishing twin syndrome is unknown, doctors have some theories: Sometimes the vanishing fetus may have had chromosomal abnormalities; others may be due to implantation problems. In most cases, the vanishing twin does a disappearing act during the first trimester (it's rare, but it can happen later on). When a twin vanishes during the first trimester, the associated tissue and fluids are often reabsorbed by the mother's body, and the remaining fetus is often healthy and carried to term.


The American Pregnancy Association estimates that between 21 to 30 percent of women carrying multiples experience vanishing twin syndrome, whether they're aware of it or not. How could you not be aware? Unless there is a problem, such as a history of miscarriage or other fertility issues, most women don't have their first ultrasound until the second trimester, between 16 and 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

1. Pregnant Man

Thomas Beatie, his wife Nancy and daughter Susan Juliette; after his sex change, he was the first "pregnant man" in the world
Thomas Beatie, his wife Nancy and daughter Susan Juliette
Hermann J. Knippertz/Associated Press

Have you heard the story of Thomas Beatie, a man who has given birth twice (and is currently expecting his third due this year)?

Beatie is a transsexual man -- a biologically born female who identifies as a man and has taken the steps to become a legal male. Gender reassignment is a long, individual process -- for Beatie, it was a 10-year journey -- typically consisting of a diagnostic assessment and diagnosis of gender identity disorder, psychotherapy, real-life experience, hormone replacement and surgery.


Female to male transgendered patients may elect to have multiple surgeries, including a hysterectomy and others to remove the vagina, construct a neophallus and place testicular prostheses. Beatie chose to retain his functional female reproductive organs during his transition from female to male, knowing that he would one day like to have children.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • 10 Diet Tips for Pregnant Women
  • Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
  • Top 10 Tips for Parenting Preschoolers

  • "Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity." The APA Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions. American Psychological Association. 2008.http://www.apa.org/topics/transgender.html
  • BBC News. "Chile weightlifter has unexpected baby during training." Dec. 15, 2008.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8414375.stm
  • "Blighted Ovum" American Pregnancy Association. 2006.http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/blightedovum.html
  • Calhoun, Ada. "'I Didn't Know I was Pregnant': Travesty or Guilty Pleasure?" TIME. 2010.http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1953105,00.html
  • "Ethical Guidelines for Professionals." World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. (WPATH). 2005.http://www.wpath.org/Documents2/Ethics011105.pdf
  • Goldman, Russell. "It's My Right to Have Kid, Pregnant Man Tells Oprah." ABC News. 2008.http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4581943&page=1
  • Hamilton, BE; Martin, JA; Ventura SJ. "Births: Preliminary Data for 2007." National Vital Statistics Reports. Vol. 57, No 12. National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_12.pdf
  • Hoeffel, CC. "Fetus In Fetu: A Case Report and Literature Review." Pediatrics. 2000.http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/105/6/1335
  • "Miscarriage." American Pregnancy Association. 2007.http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/miscarriage.html
  • "Multiples: Twins, Triplets and Beyond." March of Dimes. 2009.http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/14332_4545.asp
  • Patankar, Tufail; Fatterpekar, Girish; Prasad, Srinivasa; Maniyar, Amit; Mukherji, Suresh. "Fetus in Fetu: CT Appearance--Report of Two Cases." Radiology. 2000.http://radiology.rsna.org/content/214/3/735.full
  • "Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders." Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. http://www.psychiatryonline.com/content.aspx?aID=9855
  • "Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders" Version 6. World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. (WPATH). 2001.http://www.wpath.org/publications_standards.cfm
  • Sulak, Laura; Dodson, Melvin. "The Vanishing Twin: Pathologic Confirmation of an Ultrasonographic Phenomenon." Obstetrics & Gynecology. Vol 68, Issue 6. 1986.http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/1986/12000/The_Vanishing_Twin__Pathologic_Confirmation_of_an.15.aspx
  • "Thomas Beatie Pregnant With Third Child." The Advocate. 2010.http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/02/10/Thomas_Beatie_Pregnant_Man_Expecting_Third_Child/
  • "Vanishing Twin Syndrome." American Pregnancy Association. 2007.http://www.americanpregnancy.org/multiples/vanishingtwin.html