AskDefine | Define superfetation

Dictionary Definition

superfetation n : fertilization of a second ovum after a pregnancy has begun; results in two fetuses of different ages in the uterus at the same time; "superfetation is normal in some animal species"

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin superfetare ‘conceive while pregnant’, from super- + foetus.


  • /su:pəfə'teɪʃən/


  1. an excessive accumulation; a superfluous addition
    • 1857: These gentlemen were greatly astonished at Bovary's romantic ideas, and the pharmacist hurried in to say to him: "This velvet looks to me rather a superfetation. Besides, the expense..." — Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (tr. Geoffrey Wall 1992).


Extensive Definition

Superfetation (also spelt superfoetation, based on a false etymology — see fetus) is the formation of a fetus while another fetus is already present in the uterus. When there are two separate instances of fertilisation during the same cycle, rather than different cycles, it is known as superfecundation.
Superfetation is claimed to be common in some species of animals, but is extremely rare in humans. It can occur only where there are two uteri, or where the menstrual cycle continues through pregnancy.

In animals

Animals which have been claimed to be subject to superfetation include rodents (mice and rats), farm animals (horses and sheep), marsupials and primates (monkeys and humans). Superfetation has also been clearly demonstrated in poeciliid fish

In humans

Reports of superfetation occurring long after the first impregnation have often been treated with suspicion and some have been clearly discredited. Other explanations have been given (and demonstrated) for different levels of development between twins. Artificially induced superfetation has, however, been demonstrated although only up to a short period after insemination.
In 2007, Ame and Lia Herrity, conceived 3 weeks apart, were born in the United Kingdom to Amelia Spence and George Herrity. In May 2007, Harriet and Thomas Mullineux, also conceived 3 weeks apart, were born in Benfleet, Essex UK to Charlotte and Matt Mullineux,


Flavia d'Angelo, an Italian woman claiming to have become pregnant with triplets three months after initially getting pregnant, caused global media interest in 2001. However, it was later revealed to be a hoax.


External links

superfetation in German: Superfötation
superfetation in Slovak: Superfetácia
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