25 Strange Birth Defects Few Kids Are Born With

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

All of us come into the world with a specific blend of standard characteristics – our eye color, for instance, might be common, such as brown or blue, or more uncommon like green or grey. The majority of us do not possess extraordinarily unique individual traits; it’s the amalgamation that sets us apart. However, some people are born with very distinctive traits and genetic aberrations that can be beneficial or detrimental. Upon perusing this list, we might all desire to be slightly more ordinary than we currently are. Here are 25 Unusual Traits Barely Any Kids Are Born With.



Being two people at once

Chimera_PictureSource: http://www.independent.co.uk

No, really. We’re not talking about conjoined twins; we’re talking about about human chimeras. In the woman, a fetus can absorb the cells of a miscarried twin. The result is that the surviving twin has some of the genes of the “ghost” twin, which leads to some organs having a different DNA than others. One case like this is Karen Keegan, whose ovaries carry different genes. Technically, she’s not the mother of her children – her unborn twin sister is.


Webbed fingers or toes

WEBBYTOESSource: http://www.healthline.com

Webbed fingers/toes are technically called Syndactyly. All of our hands start off in the womb as general paddle shapes, but around the sixth week of pregnancy, we start to form individual fingers. When that process doesn’t complete correctly, you end up with webbed digits. It’s not known why this happens, and it only happens in around 1 out of 2,000 ish babies. It’s usually fixed with a simple surgery. Though in very rare cases, there are bones fused together as well, and correction may be more complicated.


Tree Man Illness

World's_4th_a_Tree_ManSource: http://emedicine.medscape.com

Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis, also known as the Tree Man Illness, makes people really open to HPV and causes malignant skin tumors. Tumors usually start around age 20, and like most skin cancer, they start in places normally exposed. Though symptoms take two decades to show up, this is a hereditary disease present at birth. Multiple uncontrolled HPV infections lead to the scaly malformations that give this disease it’s nickname.


Mermaid Syndrome

mermaidSource: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Sirenomelia is a disorder in which the legs of a baby fuse together in the womb while it’s growing, and the result is what’s commonly known as “mermaid syndrome.” Though this is usually fatal due to complications with kidneys and other internal organs, Milagros Cerron from Peru (born in 2004) actually had her legs separated and is now able to walk.


Vestigial Gills

gillSource: http://www.livescience.com

Vestigial Gills, or gills leftover from when we needed them, sometimes show up in humans. They aren’t functional in any way; they’re kind of anti-climactic, just showing up as small holes above the ear, UNTIL you learn what they are. Then it’s just weird and cool. Millions of years after our ancestors left the water, random pieces of DNA are still around to put holes for gills we no longer need or have.


Epidermolysis Bullosa

butterflySource: http://www.debra.org

This is a rare disorder of EXTREMELY fragile and sensitive skin. In fact, children with this disease are often called “Butterfly Children” because their skin is as fragile as a butterfly’s wing – even touching them can make their skin blister, bruise or even tear. This disease is always painful, but it’s also possibly fatal (largely due to secondary complications) before the age of 30. Imagine being a child who couldn’t be held or physically comforted without immense pain.


Xeroderma Pigmentosum

Bela_lugosi_draculaSource: http://aminoapps.com/

Also called Vampire Syndrome, this genetic disorder affects your DNA’s ability to repair itself. Specifically, to repair damage done by UV light, such as, y’know, sunlight. In extreme cases of this disorder, people can’t go out in the sun. At all.



Fish_-_Puntius_sarana_from_Kerala_(India)Source: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/

Trimethylaminuria is a genetic disorder that literally makes people smell bad – like rotting fish and eggs bad. It’s also known as fish odor syndrome, and it’s a metabolic disorder. Basically, people who have this lack a specific enzyme that lets the body convert trimethylamine (which smells bad) from foods into trimethylamine oxide, so the person’s body just builds up the trimethylamine and it’s released in that person’s sweat, urine, and breath.



twofacedbabycowtwiceascuteSource: https://embryo.asu.edu

Diprosopus is when someone is literally born with two faces. Yep. Two. These babies often have other serious issues such as missing all or parts of their brain, heart defects, or other neural tube disorders. Babies born with Diprosopus are often stillborn. Luckily, it’s so rare that less than fifty cases have been recorded in the last 150 years.


Ectopia Cordis

human heart drawingSource: https://radiopaedia.org

Ectopia Cordis is the technical term for being born with your heart either partially or totally outside of your body. Babies born with this generally are stillborn or die shortly after birth; however, some successful surgeries have been done.


Harlequin Ichthyosis

Harlequin_babySource: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov

“Harlequin Babies” suffer from a very rare genetic disorder. Do not google this. It’s very sad and upsetting. Babies born with this condition have thick skin covering their bodies, usually in large diamond shaped plates, hence the name. The plates are separated by deep cracks. This limits the body’s movement, including ability to breathe, and affects the shape of the eyelids, nose, mouth and ears. People born with Harlequin Ichthyosis used to die as infants, due to infections, dehydration and inability to regulate body temperature, but with modern medical advances some can live to adolescence.


Lamellar Ichthyosis

IchthyosisXlinked2Source: http://www.ichthyosis.org.uk

This is a condition in which skin cells do not separate and shed as they should, which results in the person with the disease being covered in dark brown scales. Eyelids and lips are also often turned outwards, and people with this condition often have trouble staying hydrated. It occurs in about 1 out of every 600,000 births.


Congenital Arhinia

no noseSource: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Congenital Arhinia is the technical term for being born without a nose. No, really, no nose. No outside nose, no nasal cavities, no olfactory senses whatsoever. It’s so rare there are only 30 cases recorded in history.


Wiedemann Syndrome

Josephmerrick1889Source: http://emedicine.medscape.com

Proteus or Wiedemann syndrome, causes an overgrowth of bone, skin, and other tissues, in proportion to the rest of the body. It’s not apparent at birth, symptoms only showing up between 6 and 18 months of age. This is the condition that Joseph Merrek, also known as The Elephant Man, had.



PolymeliaSource: http://www.vyperlook.com

Polymelia is a defect where a baby is born with more limbs than expected, usually a total of five or more.


Conjoined twins

Male_Siamese_twinsSource: http://umm.edu

These unique kinds of twins happen when an embryo only partially separates to form two people, instead of fully separating and creating identical twins. Conjoined twins grow together in the womb and are born connected, either at the upper chest (usually sharing a heart), from the chest to the pelvis (sharing gastrointestinal organs) or at the skull (less than 2% of conjoined twins). They can sometimes be separated, but not always, and mortality risks depend very much on the individual twins. There are fewer than 1,000 reported per year.


Ambras Syndrome

Ambras SyndromeSource: https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov

This is a condition where hair grows long all over the body, with the exception of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and mucous membranes. Remember old circus posters for “wolf girl”? That was Ambras Syndrome. There isn’t a treatment or cure. Ambras Syndrome does not effect the lifespan of those who have it.



tailSource: http://www.babymed.com

Vestigial is the term used for organs that we no longer need due to evolution, such as the appendix. (Seriously, they’re just there to possibly give you a medical emergency at some point in life). Some babies are born with a vestigial tail. Yep, a tail. We all start out with one when we’re just tiny embryos, but usually it disappears as the spinal column develops. Tails usually have no bones and are removed shortly after birth. There have been less than 50 recorded cases in the last 100 years.



cyclopsSource: http://www.babymed.com/

Cyclopia is exactly what it sounds like – babies that are born with one eye in the middle of their forehead, like a Cyclops from legend. This can effect humans and animals and is most common in kittens. Most babies born with this disorder die within moments after birth.




Hermaphroditism is when a person is born with both male and female reproductive organs. Typically if this is diagnosed at birth, the reproductive organs of one sex are removed and the genitalia altered to match, though sometimes the surgery may be delayed until puberty or adulthood to stave off gender identity disorder later in life. This happens in about 1 in 2000 births.



PolydactylySource: https://www.drgreene.com

Extra fingers and toes, called Polydactylism, can happen to humans and animals. (Ever seen a cat with “thumbs?” Same thing.) Often, these are a small, boneless extra finger or toe that can be surgically removed shortly after birth. Sometimes, though, the extra finger or toe will have bone, and will need to be completely amputated and have tendons, etc, moved around. This doesn’t happen until a child is at least one.



progeriaSource: http://www.progeriaresearch.org

This birth defect causes children to age rapidly. Not GROW, but AGE. Which means you have a 3 year old that looks like someone in their 60’s or 70’s. It’s rare, with only about 1,000 cases happening per year. Children with Progeria often die around 14 years old, usually from heart disease. There’s also late onset progeria, known as Werner’s Syndrome, that starts in the late teens and has a life expectancy into the 40’s or 50’s.


Cleft lip/Cleft palate

CleftlipandpalateSource: http://www.operationsmile.org/

Cleft lip and Cleft palate are birth defects that happen when this part of a baby’s face doesn’t form correctly in their mother’s womb, very early in pregnancy. There isn’t enough tissue in the roof of the mouth(the palate)/nose, and the upper lip doesn’t close and form together correctly. Thankfully, this is correctable with surgery, allowing children born with this to lead normal lives (like sucking on a bottle, for instance). It happens in about one in 700 children and is more likely to happen to boys than girls. Charities like Operation Smile send doctors and surgical teams to third world countries to repair cleft palates in babies and children that otherwise would not have access to such medical care.



albinobabySource: http://kidshealth.org/

Albinism is a condition where someone is born with little or no pigment (melanin) in their skin, hair and eyes. There are different forms, varying from only affecting the eyes, to affecting the eyes, skin, and hair. Albinism it can affect any race (and animals, and plants).


Heterochromia iridium

heterochromia iridumSource: https://www.scientificamerican.com

This is what happens when someone is born with two different colored eyes (think David Bowie). Scientists know what gene accounts for brown/blue eye color, and what gene accounts for green/blue eye color, but how those mix to get hazel eyes, different colored eyes, or heterochromia iridis (different colors in the same eye) isn’t quite so clear (yet).

Photo Credits: Feature Image: see credits #4, 25. Unknown, Chimera Picture, CC BY-SA 1.0, 24. User:pschemp, Celldeath, CC BY-SA 3.0, 23. Monirul Alam, World’s 4th a Tree Man, CC BY-SA 4.0, 22. AK Rockefeller via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 21. pixabay (public domain/modified to add gill), 20. Quartl, Attacus atlas qtl1, CC BY-SA 3.0, 19. en.wikipedia.org (Public Domain), 18. Viswaprabha, Fish – Puntius sarana from Kerala (India), CC BY-SA 3.0, 17. anonymous, Birth defect05, CC BY-SA 3.0, 16. The People’s Prodigy: Boycott “the weight of blood” via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 15. commons.wikimedia.org (public domain), 14. commons.wikimedia.org (public domain), 13. 10 corso como via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 12. commons.wikimedia.org (Public Domain), 11. zh.wikipedia.org (Public Domain), 10. commons.wikimedia.org (Public Domain), 9. commons.wikimedia.org (public domain), 8. pixabay.com (public domain), 7. pixabay.com (public domain), 6. A.K., Symbole Hermaphrodite, CC BY-SA 3.0, 5. en:User:Drgnu23, subsequently altered by en:user:Grendelkhan, en:user: Raul654, and en:user:Solipsist., Polydactyly 01 Lhand AP, CC BY-SA 3.0, 4. Tilly Holland via flickrCC BY 2.0, 3. James Heilman, MD, Cleftlipandpalate, CC BY-SA 3.0, 2. Felipe Fernandes via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 1. Xavier Nájera, foto by author, Cuando el color llama la atención, CC BY-SA 4.0