A woman went viral on TikTok after her doctors found her baby growing inside her liver in a highly unusual case of ectopic pregnancy. The incident first came to light in 2012 but it’s getting renewed attention on social media, where the video currently has over 5.7 million views.
Dr. Michael Narvey, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba in Canada, described the prenatal abnormality online to show women what not to expect when they’re expecting.
A Disturbing Surprise
Narvey said the 33-year-old woman sought medical help after experiencing menstrual bleeding for 14 days straight. It had been a painful “49 days since her last menstrual period,” he said.
A second sonogram showed the source of the problem. “I thought I had seen it all,” he continued.
“What they find in the liver is this: a baby. She had an ectopic pregnancy in her liver. We see these sometimes in the abdomen but never in the liver. This is a first for me,” he said while pointing to a screenshot of the sonogram.
Needless to say, the video left many TikTok users confused.
“How does a fertilized egg make it to the liver?” asked one person. “How did this happen? How did it get there?” asked another.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the woman experienced an extremely rare type of ectopic pregnancy, in which “a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus.” Symptoms usually include vaginal bleeding and severe pelvic and abdomen pain, which usually increases as the fetus develops.
In another video, Narvey described how the fertilized egg usually “winds up getting stuck” in the fallopian tube during a healthy pregnancy, but, in rare instances, the egg will depart the ova pass and embed itself in the abdominal wall.
“We see these sometimes in the abdomen but never in the liver,” Narvey added.
But the condition can be dangerous for both the mother and the child. It increases the risk of pregnancy complications for the mother, and the fetus can rarely develop outside of the uterus.
According to the authors of the original case report, the doctors were able to save the woman’s life, but they couldn’t save her unborn child.
While this type of ectopic pregnancy is rare, it’s not clear how many cases have actually occurred. The same study says that just 14 hepatic pregnancies, referring to the liver, have been reported worldwide in the 35 years preceding November 1999.
The National Health Service in the U.K. says that around one in every 90 pregnancies in the country are ectopic, which comes out to around 11,000 pregnancies a year.
“An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes,” the NHS explains. “The fallopian tubes are the tubes connecting the ovaries to the womb. If an egg gets stuck in them, it won’t develop into a baby and your health may be at risk if the pregnancy continues. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to save the pregnancy. It usually has to be removed using medicine or an operation.”
The original study referenced another case of hepatic pregnancy in which a 25-year-old woman was found to have an 18-week fetus attached to her liver. Sadly, she died due to uncontrollable bleeding after the doctors removed the fetus.
Another doctor joined the debate on social media to share his own experience treating the condition. Dr. Karan Raj said he saw a similar case of hepatic pregnancy several years ago.
“This is one of the scariest CT scans I’ve ever seen—a 27-year-old woman with a healthy 23-week fetus in the right lobe of the liver,” Raj said.
These kinds of cases are “so rare there are only a handful of cases documented in the literature,” he added. He also said the “liver is a highly vascular structure so any compressive force placed on it could result in massive internal bleeding.”