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Yes, You Can Get Pregnant While You're Already Pregnant

Photograph by Twenty20

A recent Science Q&A column in the New York Times is blowing people's minds and making everyone question if high school sex ed got anything right.

The article takes a crack at one of the greatest pregnancy myths: You can't get pregnant when you're already pregnant. Turns out, you can: The phenomenon is known as superfetation.

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ÔÇťOrdinarily, the release of eggs ceases once a woman is pregnant, and the hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy work together to prevent another conception," the column answers.

But in some poorly understood and mystical way, sometimes things happen that go against what a woman's reproductive cycle is inherently programmed to prevent, and an entirely different sperm and egg manage to join together when the person is already pregnant.

According to the Scientific American, "In order for superfetation to occur in humans, therefore, it would appear that three seemingly impossible things need to happen: ovulation must take place during an ongoing pregnancy, semen must somehow find its way through the blocked cervix to the oviduct, via the occupied uterus and finally, the conceptus has to successfully implant itself in an unsuspecting already-occupied uterus."

In other words, there are some almost impossible hoops for the sperm to jump through for this to happen. It's incredibly rare for superfetation to occur. There are maybe 10 known cases of it in humans up to now, but it is fairly common in mammals like cats, badgers and panthers.

"Most doctors believe alleged reports (of superfetation) are primarily due to markedly unequal growth and development of twin fetuses of the same gestational age," Jason James, M.D., medical director at Miami's FemCare Ob-Gyn tells SELF.

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But if a second pregnancy does occur, there's a risk that the second baby will be born premature. In some recent cases, though, both pairs of babies were successfully delivered.

In 2010, Julia Grovenburg, a 31-year-old Arkansas woman, became pregnant twice, two and a half weeks apart. The baby girl and boy were both born by C-section. And in 2015, an Australian mom named Kate Hill conceived two girls 10 days apart. Hill said because she had polycystic ovary syndrome, she was on hormones to aid ovulation and claimed she and her husband only had sex once during that 10-day period. The girls, Charlotte and Olivia, were also delivered on the same day through C-section despite different due dates and have different blood types.

Talk about miracles of the human body.

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