Baby toes
An Australian mother has given birth to a rare pair of conjoined twins who share the same body, but have separate brains.Markus Reinhardt/Flickr

An Australian mother has given birth to a rare set of conjoined twins who share the same body, but have separate brains and faces.

The Sydney-based couple Renee Young and Simon Howie welcomed their twin daughters, Hope and Faith, on 8 May, nearly six weeks earlier to their due date, Woman's Day, reported.

The conjoined twins, born with a rare medical condition known as diprosopus, have only one set of heart, body and skull; but have separate brains, with their own identical faces.

Though the couple, Young and Howie, already parents to seven children, came to know about this rare occurrence by 19th week into the pregnancy, they decided to proceed and are happy about their decision. "Even though there is only one body, we call them our twins," Howie said to Woman's Day. "To us, they are our girls and we love them."

Interestingly, according to various media reports, the twin girls are recovering well at The Children's Hospital at Westmead.

"They are breathing perfectly on their own and feeding," Howie told Woman's Day. "They even had their first bath last night."

Conjoined twins, a much-talked about subject among medical enthusiasts around the world, are formed when a woman releases a single egg that fails to separate completely after fertilisation. Though the embryo starts splitting into two, the process stops in the middle and the partial separation results in conjoined twins.

In diprosopus, the rare occurrence happens particularly due to the abnormal activity of a protein called SHH or sonic hedgehog. Excess production of the protein leads to broadening of facial features, plus duplication of facial structures.

Though normally, babies with this condition fail to survive, in India a baby girl named Lali Singh survived a few weeks after birth in March 2008. The girl was born to Sushma and Vinod Singh in Sunpura Sohanpur village near Delhi, with two pair of noses, eyes and two mouths. But she had only one set of ears. However, the baby girl suffered a heart attack and died, when she was only two-months-old.