Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Woman keeps rare conjoined twins


Lisa Chamberlain told The Sun newspaper why she was determined to keep the twins

A woman pregnant with a rare form of conjoined twins plans to press ahead with the pregnancy.

Mother-to-be Lisa Chamberlain had a scan last week which showed her embryo had two heads and one body - making them dicephalus twins.

Leading experts said the twins' chances of survival are exceedingly slim at best and advised termination.

But the 25-year-old from Portsmouth is reported to be a staunch Catholic who is opposed to abortion.

Ms Chamberlain decided against this after talking over the matter with partner Mike Pedace, 32.

Some might think my twins are strange, but to me they're just special
Ms Chamberlain

Ms Chamberlain told the Sun: "To me, my twins are a gift from God and we're determined to give them a chance of life."

The twins were diagnosed after the former RSPCA worker was taken into the city's St Mary's Hospital on Wednesday with back pain. She had become pregnant in December.

The Sun reports that after the scan results appeared, Ms Chamberlain said doctors and nurses "kept asking each other if they were babies who were close together - or 'something else'.

"Then the emergency obstetrician was called and he took over. He said my babies only had one body and were joined very high up," she told the paper.

She added: "Some might think my twins are strange, but to me they're just special. Everything happens for a reason. Mike and I have spent over seven years trying to have children and we might not get another go."

Conjoined twins are extremely rare, occurring in as few as one in every 200,000 births
They are created just a few days after they are conceived - most likely by the incomplete splitting of the fertilised egg
Most are stillborn, and a proportion of those who are born alive do not survive long afterwards

Experts believe the babies have a one in five chance of survival.

Britain's foremost expert on conjoined twins, Professor Lewis Spitz, told the Sun: "There would be a greater risk of infection - and you'd have two heads controlling one side of the body's nervous impulses. I really can't see them surviving."

Lisa and Mike hope their babies will follow the example of US Siamese twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel. They were born in March 1990 with shared organs below the navel and are still alive.

But the last conjoined twins born in the UK died within a few weeks of each other late last year.

Faith and Hope Williams were born on 26 November and were joined from the breastbone to the top of the navel with a shared liver but separate hearts. Hope died following surgery to separate them at the beginning of December, and Faith succumbing nearly a month later.

The St Mary's Hospital has declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality.

Michaela Aston from the pro-life charity LIFE said: "This young mother is an example to us all as she unconditionally welcomes her twins into the world.

"There is no way of knowing what their future holds, they may not even survive, but at least their mother will have given them a chance."

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