Conjoined twins are a rare event in the world’s delivery rooms. They occur about once in every 50,000 births, but 40% are stillborn, and, curiously, 70% are female. Conjoined twins are always identical: the product of a single egg that for some unknown reason failed to divide fully into separate twins during the first three weeks of gestation. In the U.S. there are perhaps 40 live cases each year; ordinary identical twins are 400 times as common.

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'Although they are two completely separate people, these accomplished teens share a body and have just two arms and legs between them.

Born in 1990, the girls have been brought up in a small, tightly knit community in Minnesota, almost completely protected from prying eyes and inquisitive stares. To their friends and family, they are distinct people with very different personalities, needs, tastes and desires. But to the outside world they are a medical mystery — particularly given the fact that they can do virtually all the same things as their friends, including playing the piano, riding a bike, swimming and playing softball “Their personalities make them inspirational,” says their mother Patty. “They never give up; anything they want to do, they go out and do it.”

The medical world is keen to find out how two separate brains and nervous systems can work in such a perfectly co-ordinated way, but the twins and their family have always resisted non-essential medical tests. “The family want to treat them as though they are just like everyone else,” says Joy Westerdahl, the girls’ doctor, who admits that it is a mystery how their unique physiology functions.

As they enter adulthood, the twins are likely to leave the haven of their home town and face the wider world. In preparation for that time, they have taken part in this intimate documentary to show the world what it is like to be joined for life.’

Abigail and Brittany Hensel; The Twins Who Share A Body - Watch here.

Abby and Brittany Hensel: 5 things you should know about the conjoined twins from TLC’s new show

The twins are no strangers to media scrutiny, having had TLC specials, appeared on Oprah, and even graced the cover of Time Magazine as children. As teenagers, they withdrew from media spotlight, hoping that their TLC specials would answer strangers’ questions enough to allow them to lead fairly normal social lives. As fans will see when “Abby and Brittany” debuts — they’ve succeeded in that, with plenty of friends and a surprisingly normal life.

My last hour:

Just spent 45 minutes watching the most incredible video about Abigail and Brittany Hensel, conjoined twins who are now 21 and gave an interview at 16 about their lives. They share one external body, yet have two heads, two spines, and two sets of everything internally, above the waist. They each control one leg and one arm and one sister cannot feel the sensation on the other’s arm or leg, yet they clap, walk, run, drive together without communicating.

The most amazing thing was watching them type an Email, I was thinking of me typing this right now and watched one girls’ hand control the keys with the other sisters’ hand on the other side of the keyboard doing the same, but they composed a completely legitimate email without even speaking, yet they have two independant brains, personalities and ways of thinking.

Why I look at these things I don’t know, but sometimes I spend hours researching things I just don’t know about. It’s so interesting.

I doubt you’ll be as intrigued as I was at 45 minutes of this video, but just in case you are: watch this!


Abigail and Brittany Hensel—or Abby and Brit, as they are affectionately called—were born March 7th, 1990 in Minnesota, USA. Their parents were unaware they were expecting twins until right before they were born; an emergency ultrasound revealed the babies were conjoined, having two legs and three arms. They were given a 1% chance of surviving past 24 hours, but their parents believed they would live upon learning the twins had their own hearts. They were right—Abby and Brit survived and were able to develop as normal individuals. They learned to walk at 15 months, and are now capable of driving, typing, and playing various sports. Today, the twins are graduates of Bethel University, and have starred in a reality show that documents their search for a teaching job.

The Hensel girls’ parents have always been opposed to the idea of their daughters being surgically separated. The only medical procedures they needed were the removal of their third, rudimentary arm, and surgery to correct their scoliosis. While doctors have said that they hypothetically could be separated—and that they have the necessary organs to survive independently—the chance of success would be limited, and would render the girls invalids. Both would essentially be left with half a body, unable to do the majority of things they do today, conjoined. The girls, too, have rejected the idea of separation, agreeing with their parents’ decision.