Superfecundation, while rare, can occur through either a complex single occurrence of sexual intercourse, separate occurrences of sexual intercourse, or through artificial insemination.
Ovulation is normally suspended during pregnancy to prevent further ova becoming fertilized and to help increase the chances of a full-term pregnancy. However, if an ovum is atypically released after the female was already impregnated when previously ovulating, a chance of a second pregnancy occurs, albeit at a different stage of development. This is known as superfetation.
Heteropaternal superfecundation in non-human mammals
Cases in Greek mythology
- Leda lies with both her husband Tyndareus and with the god Zeus, the latter in the guise of a swan. Nine months later, she bears two daughters: Clytemnestra by Tyndareus and Helen by Zeus. This happens again; this time Leda bears two sons: Castor by Tyndareus and Pollux by Zeus.
- Alcmene lies with Zeus, who is disguised as her husband Amphitryon; Alcmene later lies with the real Amphitryon and gives birth to two sons: Iphicles by Amphitryon and Heracles by Zeus.
Selected cases involving superfecundation
In 1995, a young woman gave birth to diamniotic monochorionic twins, who were originally assumed to be monozygotic twins until a paternity suit led to a DNA test. This led to the discovery that the twins had different fathers.
In 2001, a case of spontaneous monopaternal superfecundation was reported after a woman undergoing IVF treatments gave birth to quintuplets after only two embryos were implanted. Genetic testing supported that the twinning was not a result of the embryos splitting, and that all five boys shared the same father.
In 2016, an IVF-implanted surrogate mother gave birth to two children: one genetically unrelated child from an implanted embryo, and a biological child from her own egg and her husband’s sperm.
In 2019, a Chinese woman was reported to have two babies from different fathers, one of whom was her husband and the other was a man having a secret affair with her during the same time.
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