Picture this: You’ve returned home from the hospital, having just birthed your first child, and everything went swimmingly. Your baby is healthy, and after spending some extremely intimate time in your undercarriage, your obstetrician reported no unusual sightings down there. Sure, surprises and concerns still pop up, despite your planning: Chronic exhaustion from never getting more than half an hour of sleep; breastfeeding difficulties; the tricks your postpartum body plays on you. But nothing could’ve prepare you for the strangest trick of all, which is going to the doctor a few weeks later with what you assumed was just a regular, routine stomach ache and finding out that no no, you are in fact still pregnant, and with twins to boot.
You would, I think, be shocked. I am shocked, viscerally so, and this didn’t even happen to me. It happened to a 20-year-old woman in Bangladesh earlier this month.
Arifa Sultana had her first baby, a boy, in late February. According to CNN, it was a completely normal delivery. But a few weeks later, gynecologist Sheila Poddar told the news outlet, Sultana came in “complaining of lower abdominal pain.” Poddar performed an ultrasound and found that Sultana had been carrying twins in her second uterus, a duplicate organ the young woman had no idea existed. Just 26 days after Sultana’s first birth, Poddar delivered the babies via C-section, and everyone came through just fine. Deeply rattled, probably, but physically fine.
A double uterus, or uterus didelphys, develops in-utero, when the two separate tubes that typically fuse to form the single uterus fail to join completely. Sometimes, the two resulting uteri have their own separate cervixes and vaginas; sometimes, they share a single cervix and a single vagina. Because the condition is asymptomatic, you wouldn’t necessarily know you had it without a pelvic exam and/or some exploratory womb imaging. Sultana reportedly received no ultrasound before giving birth to her first kid, which explains why no one caught the condition.
Uterus didelphys occurs in about one in 3,000 people, yet despite its rarity, this is the second time it’s made news headlines in recent months. In February, an 18-year-old in the U.K. awoke from a four-day coma to discover she’d given birth. She hadn’t missed a period and she hadn’t noticed a baby bump, but as it turns out, while her one uterus was menstruating as usual, her secret second uterus was busy gestating a baby. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the teen described meeting her daughter as “surreal” and an “out-of-body experience.” Which, yes, I can only imagine.