In one of medicine’s unbelievably rare phenomena, and a condition that can only be described as an anomaly, a woman in India gave birth to just the country’s second ever ‘mermaid baby.’ Alas, due to specific complications, the baby passed away 4 hours later.
The baby suffered from a rare condition known as sirenomelia or the ‘mermaid syndrome,’ a congenital developmental disorder which is characterized by anomalies of the lower spine and limbs. It gives the limbs an appearance of a mermaid’s tail, hence its name.
The condition is found in around one out of every 100,000 births and is almost certainly fatal within one day or two of birth due to issues with abnormal kidney and urinary bladder development.
As the Daily Mail reports, the 23-year-old mother Muskura Bibi gave birth naturally at the government-run Chittaranjan Deva Sadan Hospital in Kolkata in eastern India. Since both she and her husband are manual laborers with a pittance for a salary, she couldn’t afford any scans during her pregnancy.
That also meant that the parents couldn’t afford the proper medication and learned about the baby’s condition only after the mother gave birth.
Dr. Sudip Saha, who’s a child specialist at the hospital, claimed that a lack of proper nutrition as well as improper blood circulation to the baby from the mom was responsible for the rare abnormality. He said: “I had never seen such a baby before. It is the first case of Sirenomelia in the state and second in the country. The baby had a normal formation in the upper part of the body, but below, its legs were fused together. The lower part was not developed completely.”
He added that the woman hadn’t undergone ultrasound sonography throughout gestation due to the family’s poor financial condition. India’s first case of Sirenomelia was reported last year when a woman from the Uttar Pradesh State gave birth to a mermaid baby that died after ten minutes.
While the baby’s parents are grief-stricken, the odds were firmly stacked against their favor. Medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris, who has a Ph.D. from Oxford University told Mail Online that the condition was fatal and that there were no accounts of anybody with the condition surviving in the past. Reportedly, this condition occurs when the umbilical cord fails to form 2 arteries, and thus there’s insufficient blood supply reaching the fetus.
The condition is a hundred times more likely to occur in identical twins rather than in single births. The exact cause of sirenomelia remains unknown, with researchers claiming that both environmental and genetic factors play a role in the development of the disorder. Since the cases appear to be so random, the suggestion is that the cause is multifactorial, which means that various factors play a causative role.
Her poverty also played a critical role in the tragedy. A diagnosis of the sirenomelia can be made prenatally, most often during the second trimester, by ultrasound, which she could not afford.