18 Things Most People Don't Know About Conjoined Twins Abby And Brittany

You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time Magazine, or on their TLC TV special. For those who don't know about these two sisters, though, Abigail and Brittany Hensel are a set of conjoined twins that share a body but have two separate heads. They are completely different people; they simply happen to share a torso, arms, and legs. This, naturally, raises a lot of questions, and the Hensel twins have many times offered to answer some of the more common questions the public is dying to know.

Of course, there are some questions that are awkward to ask or just don't have easy answers. How do conjoined twins live together, and what do they do for a job? How do they eat, use the bathroom, or even pursue romance? Contained here are the answers to some of these questions, and many of them are surprisingly simple.

So, if you're curious about these two young ladies, often mistaken as one person, keep reading. Abby and Brittany are definitely miraculous in more ways than you might imagine.  

  • They're A Statistical Anomaly For Surviving Into Adulthood

    They're A Statistical Anomaly For Surviving Into Adulthood
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    Conjoined twins are very rare. It is estimated that only one in every 200,000 births results in conjoined twins. Up to 60% of births result in a stillborn child, and less than 1% of conjoined twins survive infancy. As such, there may be fewer than 12 sets of conjoined twins alive today, and Abby and Brittany are one of them. 

    Even if conjoined twins live through their childhood years, a myriad of health problems can lead to lower odds of survival. Given all of this, Abby and Brittany's survival into adulthood puts them in an infinitesimal minority.

  • Their Internal Organs Are A Unique Mix Of Shared And Individual

    Their Internal Organs Are A Unique Mix Of Shared And Individual
    Photo: flickr / CC0

    Interestingly enough, modern medicine is very aware of how Abby and Brittany's insides work, and we know what way they are joined.

    Between them, the twins have: two spines merging at the pelvis, one broad ribcage, two hearts in a shared circulatory system, four lungs (two are fused), two stomachs, two gallbladders, one liver, one small and large intestine, three kidneys, one bladder, and one set of reproductive organs.

    In other words, there are definitely two people inside that body, but they share some rather vital organs - which means they cannot be separated.

    Now, you might be wondering, since they share a reproductive system, how do they engage in intercourse? Would they be able to have children? Though it hasn't happened yet (that they've told us), the girls have expressed a desire to start a family and get married, so this issue may be something they have to figure out someday.

  • They Originally Had Three Arms

    Though it is very apparent now that Abby and Brittany have two arms, they had three when they were still infants. This third arm was only rudimentary and ultimately useless, however, so it was more of a hindrance than a help in that it made moving the shoulder blades difficult. For this reason, Abby and Brittany's parents had the extra arm removed when they were very little.

    In general, Abby and Brittany's parents do not allow for non-vital medical examinations, procedures, or studies, but this, and one major surgery to correct growth in their ribcage, were both done as the girls grew. Nowadays, major surgeries seem to be a thing of the past for the pair.

  • They Both Only Control One Half Of Their Body

    They Both Only Control One Half Of Their Body
    Photo: TLC

    When Abby and Brittany walk, move, or do daily activities, it's actually more difficult than you might imagine. You see, Brittany controls the left side of the body, while Abby controls the right. That means each girl has to control one leg and one arm on their own. The twins had to learn to crawl, walk, run, write, and get dressed in tandem, so even standing up takes total coordination.

    That's not to say the girls are uncoordinated. They like to play sports, such as volleyball and bowling, and they can both write, swim, and dance together like any other person might. They even have a knack for music.

  • The Twins Have Different Walks

    Because they both control different halves of the body, the girls sometimes have very different styles of doing things. That includes walking, even though they have to do it together, in coordination, every day.

    Abby tends to walk with the flats of her feet as she moves. Brittany, on the other hand, likes walking in her tip-toes, which means her side of the walk is a little bouncier. Not all of this is due to stride preference, though, as Brittany's leg is shorter than Abby's, making tiptoes somewhat of a necessity. You can see a slight difference in their gate if you watch their TV specials.

  • A Seamstress Helps Their Clothes Match Their Personalities

    Just because the girls share a body, doesn't mean they share all their tastes or fashion preferences. One of the girls may like to pig out on junk food, while the other prefers to sleep, and the girls definitely prefer different styles of clothing.

    Abby's the first to explain the twins don't always see eye to eye on matters of fashion:

    We definitely have different styles. Brittany's a lot more like neutrals and pearls and stuff like that and I would rather have it be more fun and bright and colorful.