If you are pregnant with twins then you are probably doubly excited about your pregnancy – after all, you are about to welcome two bundles of joy into the world! But a twin pregnancy can also be difficult and you may be worried about the possibility of facing certain health complications. In particular, you may worry about the likelihood of having conjoined twins.
Occasionally, twins do not form correctly in utero. As a result, they can become connected to one another through specific organs and body parts. Giving birth to conjoined twins can be emotionally devastating for both you and your partner. However, there are now numerous treatment options that can help to ensure the health and happiness of your conjoined twins.
What are Conjoined Twins?
Conjoined twins are identical twins that have not split properly after fertilization. Identical (or monozygotic) twins are created from a single fertilized egg. This egg usually separates a few days after fertilization, creating two separate embryos. However, if this egg does not separate within 12 days of separation, it will not split completely. Instead of creating two separate embryos, the two embryos will remain attached in certain areas, causing the babies to grow into one another.
The History of Conjoined Twins
Unfortunately, the history of conjoined twin babies is a sad one. Sometimes referred to as Siamese twins, conjoined twins were often treated as outcasts by society. Unable to get work or support, many conjoined twins were forced to join traveling circuses in order to make a living. The most famous conjoined twins were Eng and Chang Bunker, who were born in Thailand (then called Siam) and worked for Barnum and Bailey’s circus and sideshows. Thankfully, science has allowed for conjoined twins to become understood and accepted by society, and they are no longer exploited.
How Common Are Conjoined Twins?
Conjoined twins are not a very common occurrence. In fact, only about 1 set of conjoined twins is born for every 400,000 live births. The majority of conjoined twins are stillborn or unable to survive more than 24 hours after birth. This is due to the fact that conjoined twins typically share vital organs. Only about 5% of conjoined twins actually survive longer than 24 hours. About 70% of conjoined twins are female, though the reason for this is unknown. It is thought that female embryos may be stronger than male embryos, and are thus able to survive development in utero.