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Superfetation (also spelled superfoetation – see fetus) is the simultaneous occurrence of more than one stage of developing offspring in the same animal. In mammals, it manifests as the formation of an embryo from a different estrous cycle while another embryo or fetus is already present in the uterus. When two separate instances of fertilisation occur during the same menstrual cycle, it is known as superfecundation.

Superfetation is claimed to be common in some species of animals, but is extremely rare in humans. In mammals, it can occur only where there are two uteri, or where the estrous cycle continues through pregnancy. The risk with superfetation in humans is that the second baby is often born prematurely, which can increase its odds of experiencing lung development problems.[1]

In animals[edit]

Animals that have been claimed to be subject to superfetation include rodents (mice and rats), rabbits, horse, sheep, marsupials (kangaroos and sugar gliders), felines, and primates (humans). Superfetation has also been clearly demonstrated and is normal for some species of poeciliid fishes.[2]

In humans[edit]

Reports of superfetation occurring long after the first impregnation have often been treated with suspicion, and some have been clearly discredited. Other explanations have been given (and demonstrated) for different levels of development between twins. Artificially induced superfetation has, however, been demonstrated, although only up to a short period after insemination.

In 1960, John and Mary Tress of Baltimore MD had what the nurse mistakenly identified as twins. Dr Paul C Weinberg of Mt. Sinai hospital delivered the boys, Anthony John and Mark Francis, and realized that Anthony, born five minutes before his brother Mark, looked premature. Immediately, Dr Weinberg did X-rays of the boys' thigh bones and noticed a disparity in bone age. Anthony was a two-month premature baby born five minutes before his full-term brother Mark. Anthony was conceived a full two months after his brother Mark.[3]

In 2007, Ame and Lia Herrity, conceived three weeks apart, were born in the United Kingdom to Amelia Spence and George Herrity.[4]

In May 2007, Harriet and Thomas Mullineux, also conceived three weeks apart, were born in Benfleet, Essex, to Charlotte and Matt Mullineux.[5]

In 2009, Todd and Julia Grovenburg of Fort Smith, Arkansas, received international media attention for Grovenburg's conception of an additional child while already pregnant with a child conceived two and a half weeks earlier. If it were possible to carry both children to term, the birth of the first child would be expected in December 2009, whereas the second child would be due in January 2010.[6][7] Grovenburg's obstetrician reported that cases of superfetation "can only be confirmed after delivery by chromosomal and metabolic studies on the baby."[8] Both healthy babies were delivered through Caesarean section on 2 December 2009.[9]

In 2015, Kate and Peter Hill, from Brisbane, Australia, conceived two baby girls 10 days apart. What makes this case more rare - the couple had only a single intercourse prior to the two conceptions.[10]


  1. ^ Jacob, Stephanie (September 2009). "Superfetation Double Pregnancy". AOL Health. Retrieved 1 September 2009. 
  2. ^ FishBase's glossary
  3. ^ Newsweek Magazine, 31 July. 1961
  4. ^ "Mother Deliveries Babies Minutes Apart but They are Not Twins!", Medindia, 1 October 2007.
  5. ^ Hale, Beth. "The babies born just a minute apart who AREN'T twins", The Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers, Ltd., 15 January 2008.
  6. ^ ABC News: Arkansas Pregnant Woman Is Pregnant Again.
  7. ^ Allen, Nick. "Pregnant woman conceives second child", The Daily Telegraph, 24 September 2009.
  8. ^ Jacob, Stephanie (September 2009). "Superfetation Double Pregnancy". AOL Health. Retrieved 1 September 2009. 
  9. ^ van Sipma, Ashley (1 July 2011). "I got pregnant while I was already pregnant! Woman gives birth to two babies on the same day but they are NOT twins". MailOnline. MailOnline. Archived from the original on 1 November 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Barns, Sarah "A WOMAN has conceived two baby girls 10 days apart." The Sun

External links[edit]