Superfetation as defined by Medicine Net, is an extremely rare situation in which a pregnant woman becomes pregnant a second time with another (younger) fetus. It is characterized by the fertilization and the implantation of a second oocyte in a uterus already containing the product of a previous conception. Superfetation is different from the process of twinning or multiple gestation and involves the conception of an additional fetus during an established pregnancy. With superfetation, the two fetuses have different gestational ages and due dates. Superfetation can occur in some animals but is so rare in humans that fewer than 10 cases have been reported in the medical literature.
As rarely as it occurs in humans, it’s a clause you probably need to consider adding somewhere in that surrogacy contract, because it did happen to Jessica Allen and quite recently too.
Jessica Allen who lives in California already had 2 children when she signed a surrogacy contract with a Chinese couple in 2016. She spoke to ABC News in 2017 after going through a battle to regain custody of her child who was conceived during the surrogacy contract.
Here is her story.
The surrogacy went off without a hitch. But it wasn’t until after delivery that things got messy, which is why Allen tells People, “I’d never do it again. I’m not the only one with a nightmare story, but I am the only one with a story like this.”
Allen followed all the rules perfectly, but something unexpected happened during the pregnancy. She worked with San Diego-based surrogacy agency – Omega Family Global, who paired her with the hopeful couple. In April 2016, Allen had the couple’s single male embryo implanted in her uterus through in-vitro fertilization.
Surrogates are required to take estrogen and progestogen in order to prepare their wombs for a successful implantation. Allen was careful to follow the IVF doctor’s instructions both before and after implantation so that the pregnancy would be a success. Six weeks into the pregnancy, however, the doctor found something that would make Allen pretty concerned.
The Doctors Couldn’t Believe What They Saw
At her six-week scan, the doctors told Allen that she was carrying two babies in her womb. The doctor explained that the chances of a splitting embryo were rare, but that it does happen. Everyone assumed that that was the case and Allen was relieved to know that the couple was excited to be getting twins.
Allen was paid $30,000 plus expenses for volunteering herself as a surrogate. When it was discovered she would be having two babies, her monthly paychecks increased by $5,000. Things were going along just fine until it was time to deliver.
After all was said and done, Allen and her husband were in for a big surprise.
Allen Noticed Something Odd About The Babies
On December 12, 2016 at 38 weeks’ gestation, Allen delivered the two babies via C-section. Because the operation was performed behind an opaque screen, Allen didn’t get the chance to see the babies as they were immediately taken from the operating room.
Later that night while she was recovering, Allen received a visit from the intended mother, who showed her a picture of the babies on her phone. “One looked full Chinese, the other didn’t look full Chinese. It was clear that they were not identical… but I didn’t ask questions,” Allen told People magazine.
The Message That Changed Everything
After the delivery, everyone went their separate ways and Allen returned home to recover. She and her husband used the money they were paid to purchase a brand-new home. Almost a month later, they were getting ready for move-in day when Allen received a text from the intended mother.
The mother sent Allen a picture of the babies and expressed doubt that one of them belonged to her. Allen told New York Post that the intended mother asked, "They are not the same, right?" and "Have you thought about why they are different?"
It’s A Rare Medical Phenomenon, But It Happens
The following week, the babies were subject to a DNA test with unexpected results. As it turned out, one of the babies wasn’t the twin of the implanted embryo. Instead, it was actually the biological son of Allen and her husband! Both embryos even had differing gestational ages.
A medical phenomenon like this is called superfetation, in which a woman continues to ovulate during pregnancy. This means that Allen conceived another child in her womb while she had the implanted embryo of the couple growing inside her. For their part, Allen and her husband were shocked that this happened.
You would think that the couple would just give Allen her baby, but of course, it wasn’t going to be easy…
They Thought They Were in The Clear
Allen and her husband were dumbfounded to discover that one of the babies she delivered was theirs. Per the IVF doctor’s instructions, they waited to get intimate again until Allen herself was confirmed pregnant with the implanted embryo for several weeks.
“As per my contract, Wardell [Allen’s husband] and I did not have intercourse until we were given permission by the IVF doctor, who recommended the use of condoms,” Allen told New York Post. In this case, it is also believed that his phenomenon happened as a result of contraceptive failure.
Allen And Her Husband Didn’t Know What to Do
Nonetheless, Allen and her husband were hit with the news that they had a third baby. They were shocked, to say the least. "I was panicking. My husband and I were panicking. We had no idea how this came about and we had no idea how we were going to prepare for a child overnight. We just moved into a new house, we didn’t have any more money," Allen told People magazine.
While they scrambled to figure out how they were going to handle their unexpected blessing, they were in for a far worse surprise.
Things Took A Turn For The Worst
With the new knowledge that one of the babies was theirs, Allen and her husband did what they could to bring him home. At this point, however, things started to get a little messy and bringing home their son wasn’t going to happen without a catch.
Shortly after they found out one of the babies wasn’t theirs, the Chinese couple allegedly wanted nothing to do with him. Allen was told someone from the surrogate agency was looking after her son and that the Chinese couple demanded up to $22,000 in compensation!
Soon Allen was placed in a situation where she thought she’d lose her own child for good.
Needless to say, All and her Husband went to a rigorous battle to gain custody of their baby, and ended up in debt. One would ask Who Was in The Wrong Here?
There was question over whether anyone was in the wrong in this situation. Some believe that Allen and her husband should have abstained completely, while others believe the IVF doctor is to blame for giving the go-ahead. Others believe the intended parents were in the wrong, but at the same time, they were forced to pay more on the notion that they were expecting twins.
After a lengthy legal battle with the Omega Family Global, Allen says they finally owed nothing. It however remains a wonder why the Agency put Allen through a painstaking process to get her son back, when all parties knew that he was biologically hers.
Allen delivered the babies on December 12, 2016, and on [February] 5, she was handed over her son.
Allen’s case is definitely a lesson, and Superfetation is definitely something to consider when preparing a surrogacy document.
The Omega Family Global issued a statement through the New York Post - “By its very nature surrogacy is a complicated journey which necessitates the support and care of agencies, parents, surrogates, psychologist, lawyers, and a host of other professionals. As with any pregnancy, issues do arise which require great care, attention to detail and respect for the process and the emotions of all involved”