This is something you don’t hear about every day. Jessica Allen, a surrogate mother from California, expected to give birth to twins, but she was stunned to discover that one of the children was biologically her own.
This rare genetic mishap wasn’t noticed straight away, which resulted in both children being given away to parents. However, once Allen found out, she fought to get her child back.
It’s safe to assume that this was a shock for everyone involved, but how did it happen? Well, it’s all down to a process known as “superfetation.”
There are two types of surrogacy. During “traditional surrogacy,” the woman acting as the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm. The woman then carries the baby and gives birth to it. She’s technically the biological mother, but she gives the baby away to the couple to raise as their own.
However, in this case, it seems that Allen was a “gestational surrogate.” This involves using IVF techniques to take the eggs from the mother, fertilize them with sperm from the father, and then implanting them into the uterus of another woman, who carries the baby until it’s born.
In this scenario, the surrogate has no genetic link to the child, as her egg wasn’t used. She may be the “birth mother,” but she’s not the biological mother.
As reported by the BBC World Service program Newsday, Allen seems to have ovulated while pregnant, an incredibly rare occurrence. One fertilized egg was from the intended mother, while the other was Allen’s, which was also fertilized shortly after the surrogacy began.
When this was noted, doctors originally assumed that it was one embryo that had split into two, and the mistake went unnoticed until the pregnancy was long over. This additional ovulation is what is known as superfetation. It involves the formation of a new embryo from a separate pregnancy cycle while another from the original pregnancy cycle is already present and developing.
There is a risk of the second embryo being born prematurely, but fortunately, Allen avoided this fate. When both herself and the intended mother had doubts about the identity of one of the babies, a DNA test was ordered, and the results revealed that Allen was the genetic mother. However, legally, she wasn’t one of the parents, and it took her 10 months to get her son back.