Heard the story about the woman who got pregnant from anal sex? No, it’s not the start of a bad joke but a real life situation that’s been making the rounds again recently.
This time last year, US-based urologist Dr Brian Steixner told Men’s Health that he treated a pregnant woman who arrived at the hospital one night complaining of spotting. This is not entirely unusual in a pregnancy, except when the blood is coming from your rectum.
Understandably, people were horrified – had they really been lied to by sex ed teachers, past sexual partners and sealed sections everywhere?
No, not exactly. Short answer? The risk is pretty damn minimal. The long story, however, is pretty fascinating.
In this particular case, the woman (we’ll call her Leslie) had a condition called a ‘cloacal malformation’. This means when she was born, her bladder, vagina and rectum were not fully developed, leaving her intestinal, reproductive and urinary tracts to come out of one single hole.
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According to the UK’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, it occurs in one in 50,000 live births of females.
Cloacal anomalies can also include multiple vaginas, a malformed anus and other defects of the ureters and kidneys.
The exact cause is unknown and the treatment is described as one of the “most formidable technical challenges in pediatric surgery”.
Once that has occurred and the anatomy has been clearly defined, reconstruction can happen – the rectum is detached from the vagina, the common channel is brought to the surface of the skin, divided into two and openings for the vagina and urethra are put in the right spots.
Doctors aim to achieve an anatomic reconstruction and achieving bowel and urinary control, as well as normal sexual function for their patient.
Failure to identify a persistant cloaca condition or treatment too late can cause some serious complications.
"The patient may then receive only a colostomy and may subsequently experience sepsis, acidosis, and, sometimes, death," says lead researcher Marc A Levitt, MD.