Posts Tagged: ‘birth’

If you were born a baby spider, things would have turned out much differently for you. You’d have been mostly brain, for example. Researchers have long suspected that tiny spiders — the young of which are routinely born deformed yet grow into normally proportioned adults — are born with very large brains. Now they know it, thanks to what I imagine is research that amounted to dissecting deformed spider babies carried out by arachnid specialists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, down Panama way.

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In the 1920s baby parades evolved into Better Babies Contests, marketed as public health initiatives. At these contests, often held in rural fairgrounds, babies would be disrobed, measured, weighed and evaluated for temperament and intelligence. Winning babies might claim titles such as “Heaviest Boy Under 1 Year of Age.” If this sounds a lot like livestock competitions at homegrown fairs that’s because it was!

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A while ago, Molly and I talked about “Can you get pregnant on your period?” on Stuff Mom Never Told You. And in brief, yes, you can. Sometimes, ovulation and menstruation can overlap just enough to where sperm hanging around after intercourse could possibly fertilize an egg. Oops.

But what about being on birth control, you ask?

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As is sometimes the case with genetic anomalies and mutations, sirenomelia or “mermaid syndrome” conjures certain fanciful images that have nothing to do with the traumatic effects associated with the actual medical anomaly.

Sirenomelia is so named because the birth defect involves the apparent fusing of the legs into a single lower limb, with the out-turned feet often resembling fish fins. The defect also commonly affects the kidneys, large intestines and genitalia. The condition sometimes affects the spine, brain and lungs as well.

According to, this rare condition occurs when a fetus develops only one umbilical artery (which pumps blood from the fetus to the placenta) and one umbilical vein (which returns blood to the fetus), while normal fetuses develop two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein. The altered arrangement causes less blood and nutrition to reach the lower body, leading to the fused limbs and underdeveloped array of organs.

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When two embryonic cell clumps split later than ten days after conception, conjoined twins may form. Learn more about conjoined twins in this HowStuffWorks podcast.

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