A woman who went to her doctor with period pain – only to be left reeling when it was discovered she had two vaginas – has now given birth to miracle twins, against all odds.
Plagued with agonizing menstrual cramps since she was 15, Lauren Cotter, now 34, thought she was suffering with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition affecting the way in which the ovaries work.
But an ultrasound scan when she was 16 revealed that she actually had uterus didelphys, where a woman is born with two uteruses, two cervixes and, in her case, two vaginas.
Evie, Lauren and May (PA Real Life/Collect)
Fortunately, the condition did not stop Lauren, of Melbourne, Australia, from enjoying a healthy sex life with her police detective partner Ben Cotter, 33, who she met a year after her diagnosis, although she was warned that the reduced size of her wombs and cervix might make carrying and delivering children very difficult.
Defying all predictions, however, as well as becoming a mom to Amelie, five, and Harvey, three, she now has 15-month-old twins, Maya and Evie – who were conceived despite her being fitted with a contraceptive implant.
A further quirk of her pregnancies has been carrying all her girls in her right womb, while her boy remained in her left, according to Lauren, who said: “From quite early, on Ben and I discussed having children and it was clear that he really wanted to be a dad."
Maya and Evie cuddling (PA Real Life/Collect)
She continued: “I knew I had to be open and honest and tell him that might not be a possibility for me.
“Luckily he wasn't bothered. We talked it through and agreed that there was more than one way to have a baby if you wanted it badly enough.
“But actually, we have found it easy to fall pregnant – I am not sure why, or if it has anything to do with my two vaginas."
After starting her periods at age 14, Lauren soon began to suffer with painful cramps and heavy bleeding.
Consulting her local doctor, an ultrasound scan was performed to investigate the symptoms further when she was 16, revealing she had uterus didelphys.
According to the World Health Organization, the condition affects around one in 3,000 women across the world and occurs when the uterus fails to fuse properly during development in the womb.
Lauren at 37 weeks pregnant with twins (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I can't remember much about the diagnosis, but I remember hearing PCOS mentioned quite a few times," she said. “Up until the ultrasound, there were no signs that I was any different to anyone else."
A few months after her diagnosis, Lauren had laser surgery to remove the dividing wall between her two vaginas, which would enable her to enjoy a normal love life, when the time came.
“I didn't think much about it at the time. All I remember is being told I was going to need surgery to give me a normal life later down the line – but they didn't go into any specifics," she added.
Lauren's first cuddle with the twins (PA Real Life/Collect)
A year later, when she was 17, she met Ben through mutual friends, and happily, intimacy was no problem for the pair.
With their relationship going from strength to strength, Lauren and Ben got married in a mansion house in Melbourne in 2012, and a year into their marriage, decided to start trying for a baby.
But, while fertility itself was not an issue, she had been warned that being able to safely carry a baby to full term may not be possible, given that her wombs were half the average size.
So, the newlyweds were expecting the road to parenthood to be fraught with difficulties – until Lauren fell pregnant with Amelie in October 2013, after just a month of trying.
She recalled: “We decided to give it a go, and just see what happened. We knew it might be a bumpy road and tried not to get our hopes up too much.
“Just a month after we started trying, I bought a stack of pregnancy tests and started taking them weekly."
Ben, Amelie and Lauren (PA Real Life/Collect)
She continued: “Then one morning, I had a test to hand, and there on the stick was a very, very, faint blue line.
“I couldn't be sure, so I took a test each morning that week, and each day the line got darker and darker until I was sure – we were pregnant."
With doctors carefully monitoring her pregnancy to key an eye on the baby's development, Lauren initially hoped she would be able to carry the baby to full term.
A photo after the arrival of baby Amelie (PA Real Life/Collect)
She continued: “My obstetrician was quite honest with me and explained that, as I have two cervixes, it physically isn't possible for me to fully dilate enough for the baby to pass through.
“Therefore, I'd have to have an early delivery via C-section."
Despite her initial disappointment, Lauren's pregnancy went smoothly, and baby Amelie was delivered by caesarean section on June 12, 2014, at Melbourne's Mercy Hospital for Women, weighing a healthy 6lb 13oz.
Settling into family life, the couple decided to start trying for baby number two around 18 months later.
Once again, after just two months, Lauren fell pregnant and was surprised to discover at her first scan, at five weeks, that her baby was growing in her left womb, not her right, as before.
“I carried Amelie in my right, and just assumed the left one was a dud," she added.
Lauren's first cuddle with the twins (PA Real Life/Collect)
Following another problem-free pregnancy, Harvey was delivered, once again by caesarean, at 33 weeks.
Arriving at the Mercy Hospital for Women, he weighed 4lb 12oz, and, after initially struggling to swallow on his own, was allowed home after three weeks.
Already busy raising two young children, Lauren was unsure if she wanted to try again right away, and so, 15 months after having Harvey, she was fitted with a contraceptive implant on the advice of her consultant.
Family photo after the twins' arrival (PA Real Life/Collect)
“The pill was giving me migraines and I couldn't use the coil, so in the end the implant was the only option left," she continued.
“It's one of the complexities of having my condition – they have to take two swabs every time I go for a smear test too."
According to the NHS, the implant is more than 99 per cent effective – but remarkably, just three weeks after having it fitted, Lauren made a shocking discovery.
“This feeling came over me, and on some level, I knew I was pregnant," she continued. “The day my period was due, I dug out a pregnancy test, and within minutes my suspicions were confirmed."
Then, at her nine-week scan, Lauren, who suspects she conceived the day her implant was fitted after a misunderstanding about the window period in which she could fall pregnant afterwards, was left reeling once again when she discovered she was expecting twins.
“Shocked doesn't begin to cover it," she added. " During 17 years together, Ben and I had only ever got pregnant when we'd planned it. Now, here we were, having surprise twins."
Harvery after he was born (PA Real Life/Collect)
Concerned about how long Lauren would be able to carry twins due to her condition, doctors put her on strict bed rest from 19 weeks onward.
“My doctor was very honest and said he couldn't know how the pregnancy was going to play out," she recalled.
Slowly ticking off the days, by the 37 week mark, the babies were ready to be delivered, and on June 5, 2018, Maya and Evie were born – by caesarean, like their siblings – weighing 5lb 13oz and 5lb 4oz respectively.
While they initially seemed perfectly healthy, drama struck just hours after their arrival when Evie began struggling with her breathing and was sent to intensive care.
There, an X-ray of her lungs was ordered, which showed she was suffering with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which occurs when a baby is born with their intestines in the chest cavity.
At just five days old, she had keyhole surgery, which her parents were warned she had just a 50% chance of surviving and could have meant her staying in hospital for up to eight months before she was ready to be discharged.
Maya and Evie holding hands (PA Real Life/Collect)
Miraculously, she was ready to come home after three weeks and, now 15 months old, the twins are happy, healthy and at the center of the family's “crazy, hectic and amazing" life.
But, admitting she did not want any more surprises, the mom-of-four revealed how, during her caesarean section, she also requested that her fallopian tubes be removed so she cannot fall pregnant again.
She laughed: “Ben and I are one super fertile couple, and now we're happy with things just as they are."