A pregnant woman who conceived twins via IVF has had her joy shattered after doctors told her she is carrying another woman's babies.
The woman, who is three months pregnant with twins, underwent fertility treatment at a clinic in Rome, where the embryos belonging to her and her partner were mixed up with those of another couple.
The mistake happened on December 4, when four different couples were receiving treatment at a specialist fertility unit at the Sandro Pertini Hospital in Rome, Italy's La Stampa newspaper reported on Sunday. It is not clear whether the mistake led to any of the other women becoming pregnant with the wrong baby.
Italy's Health Ministry said it was launching an investigation into the error, and Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said investigators would look at whether the hospital had "respected all the legal procedures".
She also expressed concern she had only learnt about the mistake through press reports.
"The national standards on assisted fertilisation, which are based on European directives, are very rigorous, and if applied correctly, guarantee the traceability of all biological material used in the reproduction process," she said.
The local health authority in Rome said it only became aware there was a problem of "genetic incompatibility" between the parents and the embryos on March 27.
It said it has halted all embryo implantations at the clinic until further notice.
The investigation will be led by geneticist Giuseppe Novelli and will look into whether there was any further mix-up of the embryos of two of the other women.
It is not the first time a woman undergoing IVF has had the incorrect embryos implanted.
In 2010 American woman Carolyn Savage became pregnant with another woman's baby after a mix-up caused by the two woman having the same surname.
Doctors offered Mrs Savage a termination after the mistake was discovered when she was two months pregnant. If she did not terminate the baby, she was told she would effectively become a surrogate mother.
Due to her strong religious beliefs, Mrs Savage refused a termination and only spent one hour with the baby boy after his birth before he was given to his biological parents.
And in America, couples were left devastated when they learnt that a disturbed fertility clinic worker had swapped his own sperm in place of at least one client's.
- AFP with staff writers