A mother has told how doctors discovered she had been carrying her own twin for entire life – without her ever knowing.
Hannah Bridgewater was nine months pregnant with her daughter Lexie when she collapsed and was rushed to hospital in 2012.
Doctors found a lemon-sized cyst on her right ovary – before discovering the lump contained fragments of teeth, hair and nails that matched her DNA.
Medics initially believed the body parts must belong to Lexie’s twin but found they were too old for that to be the case.
Therefore, doctors said they belonged to Mrs Bridgewater’s own twin which she had carried inside her body without realising it since before she was born.
Mrs Bridgewater, now 29, said: ‘When the doctors investigated the cyst, they found fragments of teeth, hair and nails that matched my DNA.
‘They were too old to be Lexie’s twin so they said I’d been carrying my own twin. It had always been there, they just never found it.
‘Twins do run in my family. My mum was supposed to be a twin but my grandmother miscarried, my aunties are twins and I also have twin cousins.’
The cyst may have been a rare type of teratoma – a tumour that can contain teeth, hair and bone – called fetus-in-fetu.
They occur as a result of late cell division, meaning the twins don’t fully separate. One connects to the mother via the placenta, while the other, smaller one connects to its twin’s vessels. As the bigger twin grows, the smaller twin becomes absorbed into the abdomen.
However, Mrs Bridgewater claims she was told it was not this.
Mrs Bridgewater, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, had her right ovary removed after giving birth to Lexie through a Caesarean.
It sent her into premature menopause at age 23 – the average age of menopause in the UK is between 51 and 52, the NHS says.
This is because she had already had her left ovary removed earlier in her pregnancy with Lexie, after doctors found another cyst on that.
If both ovaries are removed, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust says women will experience an ‘immediate surgical menopause’.
Mrs Bridgewater and her husband Anthony, also 29, are now discussing adoption to fulfill her dream of having more children.
She said: ‘It would be amazing, we’re looking into it for the future. I’d hoped to have more children.
‘But once I found out the option had been taken away I got over the idea, now me and Anthony are talking about it so it’s really exciting.’
Mrs Bridgewater, a full-time carer to AJ, who has autism, said: ‘I only wanted two children and I’ve got one of each but that choice was taken from me.
‘I wasn’t given a choice. It hit me really hard. What if I wanted another in five years time? I didn’t even have the option.
‘Then a nurse walked past and handed me a leaflet: “10 easy ways to deal with the menopause” and that’s how I found out.
‘I can be really happy, then I don’t want anyone to talk to me. If I think about it in depth I get quite upset, I could lay and cry randomly.
‘It’s just out of my control. It was terrifying, I didn’t know how I was going to handle the menopause. I was 23, I should have been in the prime of my life and partying.’
She added: ‘But I’m staying at home crying with two young kids and going through the menopause at the same time.’