Laurie Martino was 26 years old and in the middle of giving birth to her first child when she learned she has two uteruses. Looking back, the other health issues she’d dealt with for most of her life should have been a tipoff. At 3 years old, she was diagnosed with kidney reflux disorder after an onslaught of urinary tract infections, and underwent surgery at nine to correct the problem. She didn’t get her period until she was 16, and even then it was irregular, with cramping that felt like contractions.
“Doctors should have caught my condition when I was little, every time I had a sonogram,” she says. “We have absolutely no idea how they didn’t.”
During delivery, after Martino’s doctor twice failed to manually flip her breech son, badly bruising her stomach in the process, he opened her up for an emergency C-section. When he did, he was surprised to see two wombs.
“I was freaked out because he pretty much said that it was miraculous I was even able to have children,” recalls Martino, now 28, a health and fitness coach living in Texas. “There was this fear of okay, I had a miscarriage before, is it just a miracle that I had a child? Will I be able to have more? I remember having all these emotions because I couldn’t even process it.”
Her anomalous congenital condition is called uterus didelphys; it affects about one in 2,000 women, many of whom don’t even know they have it. During the embryonic stage of human development, a female has more than one “uterine horn.” If fusion of the two tubes, which are called Müllerian ducts, fails to occur, the uterus does not come together, likely due to an error in the signal instructing cells to migrate. The result: a double uterus with two cervixes and, sometimes, though not in Martino’s case, a double vagina.