Superfecundation is the fertilization of two or more ova from the same cycle by sperm from separate acts of sexual intercourse, which can lead to twin babies from two separate biological fathers.[1][2] The term superfecundation is derived from fecund, meaning the ability to produce offspring. Homopaternal superfecundation refers to the fertilization of two separate ova from the same father, leading to fraternal twins;[3] while heteropaternal superfecundation is referred to as a form of atypical twinning where, genetically, the twins are half siblings – sharing the same mother, but with different fathers.

Superfecundation, while rare, can occur through either a complex single occurrence of sexual intercourse, separate occurrences of sexual intercourse, or through artificial insemination.[4]


Sperm cells can live inside a female's body for three days, and once ovulation occurs, the egg remains viable for 12–48 hours before it begins to disintegrate. Superfecundation most commonly happens within hours or days of the first instance of fertilization with ova released during the same cycle.

Ovulation is normally suspended during pregnancy to prevent further ova becoming fertilized and to help increase the chances of a full-term pregnancy. However, if an ovum is atypically released after the female was already impregnated when previously ovulating, a chance of a second pregnancy occurs, albeit at a different stage of development. This is known as superfetation.[4]

Heteropaternal superfecundation in non-human mammalsEdit

Heteropaternal superfecundation is common in animals such as cats and dogs. Stray dogs can produce litters in which every puppy has a different sire. Though rare in humans, cases have been documented. In one study on humans, the frequency was 2.4% among dizygotic twins whose parents had been involved in paternity suits.[5]

Cases in Greek mythologyEdit

Hellenism holds many cases of superfecundation:

Selected cases involving superfecundationEdit

In 1982, twins who were born with two different skin colors were discovered to be conceived as a result of heteropaternal superfecundation.[6][4]

In 1995, a young woman gave birth to diamniotic monochorionic twins, who were originally assumed to be monozygotic twins until a paternity suit led to a DNA test. This led to the discovery that the twins had different fathers.[3]

In 2001, a case of spontaneous monopaternal superfecundation was reported after a woman undergoing IVF treatments gave birth to quintuplets after only two embryos were implanted. Genetic testing supported that the twinning was not a result of the embryos splitting, and that all five boys shared the same father.[4][7]

In 2016, an IVF-implanted surrogate mother gave birth to two children: one genetically unrelated child from an implanted embryo, and a biological child from her own egg and her husband's sperm.[8]

In 2019, a woman was reported to have two babies from different fathers, one of whom was her husband and the other was a man having a secret affair with her during the same time.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Worland, Justin (May 8, 2015). "The Science of How Women Can Have Twins With 2 Different Fathers". Time. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  2. ^ "Public Education Pamphlets".
  3. ^ a b Ambach, E; Parson, W; Brezinka, C (2000). "Superfecundation and dual paternity in a twin pregnancy ending with placental abruption". Journal of Forensic Sciences. 45 (1): 181–3. doi:10.1520/JFS14656J. PMID 10641935.
  4. ^ a b c d McNamara, Helen C.; Kane, Stefan C.; Craig, Jeffrey M.; Short, Roger V.; Umstad, Mark P. (2016). "A review of the mechanisms and evidence for typical and atypical twinning". American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 214 (2): 172–91. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2015.10.930. PMID 26548710.
  5. ^ Wenk, R. E.; Houtz, T; Brooks, M; Chiafari, F. A. (1992). "How frequent is heteropaternal superfecundation?". Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae. 41 (1): 43–7. doi:10.1017/S000156600000249X. PMID 1488855.
  6. ^[full citation needed][dead link]
  7. ^ Amsalem, Hagai; Tsvieli, Rimona; Zentner, Bat Sheva; Yagel, Simcha; Mitrani-Rosenbaum, Stella; Hurwitz, Arye (2001). "Monopaternal superfecundation of quintuplets after transfer of two embryos in an in vitro fertilization cycle". Fertility and Sterility. 76 (3): 621–3. doi:10.1016/S0015-0282(01)01976-8. PMID 11532493.
  8. ^ Susan Scutti (November 3, 2017). "Surrogate mom delivers two babies, one her own". CNN.
  9. ^ "Chinese woman gives birth to twin babies from different fathers in one-in-a-million case". DailySabah.

Further readingEdit