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Mermaid Syndrome Facts

Mermaid Syndrome Facts

Mermaid syndrome or sirenomelia syndrome is a deadly birth defect in which the two lower limbs of the newborn are attached or fused together as one. It is named so because the two fused lower limbs look like a mermaid's tail. Let us get more informed about this grave syndrome.
Sayali Bedekar Patil
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
The congenital deformity known as mermaid syndrome is a very rare birth deformity, in fact as rare as conjoined twins. The only problem with it is that it is lethal for the newborn baby and most often than not requires immediate surgeries. This article is for arming you with all the possible information about this condition in newborns, so here we start with the facts about this syndrome.
Crucial Facts
  • It is also known as sirenomelia, as mentioned earlier.
  • It is such a rare birth defect that only 1 in every 70,000 births is known to have it.
  • There are only over 300 (reported) live births of such babies.
  • More often than not, the condition proves fatal for the baby. In fact, very few survive it even after surgery.
  • Half the cases are usually seen as stillbirths, while it is hundred times more likely to occur in identical twins.
  • This disorder was initially mistaken with Caudal Regression Syndrome, but was later reiterated as an independent sirenomelia mermaid syndrome.
The Underlying Defect

This birth defect is caused by the abnormal formation of the umbilical cord blood vessels. While most normal fetuses have two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein, the sirenomelia fetus just has one. If a sirenomelia baby does have two arteries (which is extremely rare) it is mostly blocked. With one umbilical artery (vitelline artery) providing blood to the fetus, it is obvious that normal growth of the fetus is not possible. This artery steals the blood and nutrition from the lower body of the fetus and diverts it back up to the placenta. Due to this malnutrition, the lower limbs of the fetus fail to develop and separate into two limbs.
Often, this syndrome comes with other life-threatening abnormalities. The lower side malnutrition also results in malformed kidneys and internal or external genitalia. Even worse, this problem causes the large intestine to misplace itself within the abdomen of the baby and sometimes even the anus is imperforate (has no opening).
Severity Levels

The mermaid syndrome malfunction can be seen in various levels of severity. The range of severity for this birth defect is as follows:
Mild Mermaid Syndrome
Here, the sirenomelia baby has two limbs fused into one, only to the extent of the skin. The feet may be fully formed and many are only attached at the ankles. All the three main bones of the leg are fully and correctly formed. In this situation, a small surgery can easily correct the deformity.
Severe Mermaid Syndrome
The severe form of this syndrome is very difficult to even imagine. The things that are externally visible are both limbs that are completely joined, appear tapered and are ill-formed. There is a complete absence of foot structures and out of the three, only two bones are present in the entire limb. Other internal damage can only be accessed with medical tests and X-rays.

Scientists and medical professionals are still debating the causes of this birth defect in newborns. There are, however, a few unconfirmed theories going around, regarding the causes. They are as listed below:
  • Illness suffered during pregnancy, either by the expecting mother or directly by the fetus
  • Poor prenatal care by the expectant mother
  • Genetic abnormalities either in the genes of the mother or the genes of the father
Survivor Facts

Believe it or not guys, in the entire medical history of the world, there are only two known survivors of mermaid syndrome, both girls. Mermaid syndrome girl Shiloh Pepin (born in 1999) recently died in October 2009, after defying her doctors, who claimed that she would not live past a few days from her birth. The girl lived to be ten years old and can be given the credit for spreading more awareness by appearing on television shows like the Oprah Winfrey Show.
The two survivors are Tiffany Yorks and Milagros Cerron.Tiffany Yorks is the oldest survivor of mermaid syndrome and was born with the defect in 1980. Unfortunately, she had more problems than just fused legs. She was born without a bladder which had to be surgically put in. She had about five surgeries before she was one, to separate her legs and correct her other internal problems. She has had many more surgeries all throughout her youth, for her mermaid syndrome has caused her many problems even after the ones she had corrected earlier.
Peru bornMilagros Cerron was born in 2004 and is also a valiant survivorof the mermaid syndrome. She, too, had numerous other complications to go with her already severe condition. She was not only born with just one kidney, but it was later found that both her digestive tract and genitals were one single tube. Like the 'miracle' that her name means in Spanish, this girl born in a poor Spanish family received all her medical treatment at the expense of the Lima Government. This Spanish girl was left almost mute by the intense medical treatment that she went through, but she has, today, overcome that trauma, too.
The causes of this syndrome are not known for sure. As a precautionary measure, a pregnant woman can get a sonogram done (in case of doubts), and as per the advice of a doctor, can get her pregnancy terminated.
Researching on this article made me so thankful to God that I have so many reasons to say 'I am blessed'. I hope reading this makes you feel lucky as well. Cherish what you have for there are some really atrocious things out there, that you are lucky to not have faced. So friends "Stop Complaining and Start Thanking".
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.