Last week, Shelby Magnani walked into a medical clinic in Ankeny, Iowa complaining of stomach pains. Turns out she was actually 34 weeks (!!!) pregnant with twins.
“I had really sharp pain in my left side and went into the doctor, and they said we think you might be pregnant," Magnani told WHOtv. "They told me I was six months and told me to get down to the ER. They did an ultrasound and told me it was twins."
These weren't your average, run-of-the-mill twins though. They were incredibly rare monoamniotic twins, which account for less than 1% of all twins. Monoamniotic twins share a single amniotic sac and placenta, and this can lead to complications during pregnancy -- like a 50% survival rate for the babies.
Magnani's daughters Ava and Anna were born via emergency C-section a few hours after she went to the clinic. Though the girls have to be monitored at the hospital for a couple weeks, both of them are healthy and are expected to go home soon.
Magnani and her fiancé James Croskey, both 23, are thankful that nothing went wrong during such a high-risk pregnancy.
“I love them, I love them more than anything,” says Croskey told WHOtv about his daughters.
But is it really possible to be pregnant and not know it for almost eight months? According to obstetrician and gynocologist Dr. Mark Hathaway -- who did not treat Magnani -- "It definitely happens."
There are many reasons why someone may not realize they're pregnant for several months. Maybe the side effects are too small to notice. Maybe the side effects are easily confused for something else. Maybe they never got their period regularly, anyway. Maybe they thought they were infertile and assumed they'd never be able to get pregnant. Maybe stress leads them to subsconsciously believe the pregnancy doesn't exist. Taking a pregnancy test that comes up as false -- yes, even when you're actually pregnant -- could be another factor.
This was part of the reason why Magnani didn't realize she was pregnant for so long. "I had none of the pregnancy symptoms that you hear about," she wrote to us in an email. "I never felt sick, my boobs never were sore, I was having my regular period. The only thing that could have told me was the fact I had gained a little bit of weight, but when you only gain 10 pounds, maybe 15 at the most you don't think automatically, 'Oh I'm pregnant.' I even took a pregnancy test a few months back because of the weight gain and when it came back negative, I ruled it out."
Luckily, “Pregnancy tests have become better and better over the years, in the last decade ... [False negatives are] happening less and less because pregnancy tests are becoming more effective," Dr. Hathaway told us.
He also spoke to us about his experience with cases similar to Magnani's. “The one patient I remember very vividly … [she came in] from the emergency room department and all of us were [surprised by] how she delivered a full-term baby,” he told us. “She was slightly overweight, she was in shock, she was scared … that to me indicated she had no idea she was pregnant. The movement and the things she was feeling inside, she attributed to gas pain.”
Dr. Hathaway explained that this patient was on the birth control shot Depo-Provera, which can stop periods. As a result, she believed her additional weight gain -- which is a side effect of the shot -- and lack of a period were caused by her contraceptive.
“I think just about every obstetrician, gynecologist, or midwife that deals with pregnant patients … has had this happen," Dr. Hathaway told us. "We’re all kind of astounded because there’s so many symptoms that come along with pregnancy, but many women don’t get them or attribute [them] to something else.”
But just how common is such a pregnancy? One study found that in 1 out of 2455 births, a healthy baby is born without the mother knowing she was pregnant until she went into labor. That's pretty damn rare.
However, the odds increase a lot -- 1 out of 475 births -- in cases where the mom finds out she's pregnant after 20 weeks. That's almost five months without knowing you're pregnant! So while it doesn't happen frequently, it certainly does happen.
Watch WHOtv's full news report about Magnani and Croskey below:
"The most rewarding moment [with my daughters] has been every moment with them," Magnani wrote to us. "It's amazing to just be with them every day and hold them and take care of them, it's a really special feeling."
Her and Croskey are both studying automotive technology in college and hope to open their own business together following graduation. In the meantime, though, Ava and Anna require a lot of diapers, food and all the other expensive stuff that babies need. A GiveForward page has been set up to collect donations for the girls.