In 2015, the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, released a three-part documentary series, Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit, hereafter Twice Born, that follows several pregnant women and their experiences with fetal surgery. Trailblazer Studios produced the film, which predominantly features two women, although it includes the stories of many women. The two main women are pregnant with fetuses diagnosed with physical deformities. One woman’s fetus is diagnosed with spina bifida, an incomplete closure of the fetus’s spinal column. The other woman’s fetus is diagnosed with an oral teratoma, a tumor of the mouth. All the pregnant women in the series went to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to have in utero surgery to correct the fetus’s birth defects. Twice Born examines the benefits and risks of performing surgery on a fetus still in the pregnant woman’s uterus. Due to the popularity of PBS, the documentary reached a wide audience and brought the topic of in utero surgery to the public’s attention.
Teratomas are embryonal tumors that normally arise from germ cells and are typically benign. They are defined as being composed either of tissues that are foreign to the area in which they form, or of tissues that derive from all three of the germ layers. Malignant teratomas are known as teratocarcinomas; these cancerous growths have played a pivotal role in the discovery of stem cells. "Teratoma" is Greek for "monstrous tumor"; these tumors were so named because they sometimes contain hair, teeth, bone, neurons, and even eyes. Teratomas have been medical curiosities for centuries, though it wasn't until the 1960s that significant research into mice teratomas elucidated not only what these strange growths were, but also how germinal cells should normally function.