Sacrococcygeal teratoma is a tumor that usually occurs before birth, growing from a baby's coccyx. However common this tumor is among fetal tumors, the concept of a fetal tumor itself occurs very rarely, but this type happens in one for every 35,000 births, usually among girls.
Margaret Boemer was 16 weeks into her pregnancy when she decided to go in for an ultrasound. She then found out her pregnancy was unusual.
"They saw something on the scan, and the doctor came in and told us that there was something seriously wrong with our baby and that she had a sacrococcygeal teratoma," recalled the Texas mom as part of an interview shared by Texas Children's Hospital.
While some tumors can be tolerated through the entire pregnancy and removed after birth, the case seen in Boemer's baby was not typical. The reason it was causing so many troubles is a blood flow issue. The tumor also tries to grow simultaneously with the baby, which sometimes is a major impediment in his or her development.
"And in some instances, the tumor wins and the heart just can't keep up and the heart goes into failure and the baby dies," explained Dr. Darrell Cass, co-director of Texas Children's Fetal Center and associate professor of surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College Medicine.
By the 24th week of the pregnancy, the woman had to be operated on to get the tumor out of her baby. The surgery was necessary for the child to survive and for the pregnancy to continue normally.
According to the doctors, the actual removal of the tumor was not the most difficult or time-consuming part but the opening of the uterus. They had to do it without causing health issues in the mother.
However, as the tumor was so large in this particular case, Boemer had a huge incision. The removal process was complicated, during which the baby was also taken out of the womb.
"Essentially, the fetus is outside, like completely out, all the amniotic fluid falls out; it's actually fairly dramatic," continued the doctor. By that point, medication from the heart doctor was important, since the child's hearbeat had even stopped for a moment, due to her removal from the uterus.
The operation, however, was successful in spite of the risks. The woman had complete bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy, before giving birth to her child the second time, on June 6.
Boemer's little girl is doing well after all that, celebrating her 4th month out into the world.