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"Mermaid Baby": What You Need to Know About this Rare Syndrome

The mermaid baby syndrome as it is popularly known, is actually called sirenomelia by medical professionals.

1 in every 100,000 babies are born with sirenomelia, also called the “mermaid baby” syndrome. This rare syndrome is a birth defect that results in the legs of the baby being fused together. This can also result in stillbirth. In most cases, babies do not survive more than a day or two, due to complications related to their kidneys and urinary bladder.

There is no identified cause for the syndrome. It can result from a failure of normal vascular supply from the lower aorta in utero. Very few individuals with this condition survive beyond their birth.

An exception to this is Shiloh Pepin, born with the syndrome in Maine, USA. She lived until the age of 10 years and was even interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, one of America’s most popular TV hosts. Her popularity inspired others to be kind to people who suffer. She died soon after at the age of 10, when she suffered pneumonia and other complications. But this was a great milestone for Shiloh, who was not even expected to survive more than a few hours or a day. Shiloh’s story inspired many with cerebral palsy and other challenges to talk about their life and live it to the fullest.

Credits: Daily Mail Online

Like Shiloh, children who do survive the syndrome require medical help, ranging from surgery to separate the fused legs, to dialysis in case of kidney failure. Some children receive organ transplants in a few cases.

Sirenomelia is a very rare defect, and it can be detected before birth on ultrasound scanning and radiograph, after which termination of the pregnancy is an option that avoids complications during or after birth. 

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