Where Are the Famous Conjoined Twins, Abby & Brittany Hensel, Today and What Are They Up to?

Tricky Brick / January, 30, 2024

Abigail and Brittany Hensel are two individuals who happen to share a body. They were born with an exceptionally rare condition and are recognized by many as the celebrity conjoined twins.

The twins didn't chose to share their story with others in order to gain fame. The real reason for starring their own reality TV show was to help destigmatize their condition and inform people of what they have had to overcome to be where they are today. They also understand that people are naturally curious and have done their best to answer most questions people are afraid to ask.

Read on to find out about these extraordinary women and the challenges they had to face to become the independent strong educators they are today.

1 One In a Million

It is extremely rare for twins to be born conjoined. In fact the estimate odds are somewhere between 1 in 49000 to 1 in 189000 births. Tragically half of these births are stillborn and of the remaining conjoined twins a third don't make it past the first 24 hours.

It is practically unheard of for conjoined twins to reach their adult years. Abby and Brittany Hensel however are the exception. They are dicephalic parapagus twins meaning they have two heads but share a body (two arms and two legs).

2 Sharing Everything (Almost)

Ordinary twins share a lot of things but Abby and Brittany Hensel have a body to share on top of that. They each have their own heart lungs and spine but the lower half of their body is joined. In other words the twins share more than clothes. They share their legs reproductive organs liver bladder and large intestines.

Many siblings struggle to share their personal space with their brothers and sisters but to share a body is something that most cannot even begin to understand.

3 Team Work

Abby and Brittany Hensel control one arm and one leg each. This means that in order to function on a day to day basis an enormous amount of teamwork is required.

Tasks like walking or eating with a knife and fork are actions we take for granted daily. For the twins they have to be totally coordinated every time they want to complete a simple task. But amazingly they actually learned to walk run and play at the same rate as other children.

4 Unique Paperwork

Although they share a body the Hensel twins are unique individuals. This means that in addition to having autonomous identities they also require separate documentation.

We're talking about birth certificates social security numbers and even driving licenses. The twins actually had to take their driving test twice before they were legally allowed to drive. When they go through airport security they also have to show their respective passports even though they occupy the same space when they fly.

5 Different Heights

Abby and Brittany Hensel are genetically identical conjoined twins. But oddly enough the two have different heights. Abby stands at 5'2" and has a slightly longer leg. Brittany on the other hand is shorter and stands at 4'10".

Practically speaking this isn't too much of an issue although it does cause them to walk with a gait which looks a little like a limp. This doesn't prevent them from swimming running or riding a bike though. Whatever challenges they face they tackle them together.

6 Media Frenzy

The Hensels are known all over the world for their unique situation. Their first media appearance can be traced back to the Oprah show.

Oprah interviewed the twins and the public was fascinated by their unique situation. TLC invited the twins to star in a documentary about their lives and the feature turned out to be a huge hit. They were then offered an opportunity to star in their own reality TV show turning into overnight celebrities.

7 Making the Right Choice

When Abby and Brittany Hensel were born their parents were asked to consider separating the twins surgically. The doctors warned them that this might lead to the death of one or even both of the twins. And even if they had survived the procedure they wouldn’t be able to walk.

The twins' parents decided that this was not a risk they were willing to take. And so ultimately by keeping the twins together they were able to retain their independence.

8 Very Active

The Hensel twins work together to tackle any challenge that life throws at them. They have chosen to embrace their situation and are living life the best they can.

This means leading a very active and physical lifestyle. Their condition may make this a challenge but they have worked hard on their coordination skills so that they can lead the life they want to the best of their ability. It is incredibly impressive and inspiring.

9 Different Strokes

Just because they share a body doesn't mean the Hensel twins are the same person. They have unique minds and have developed their own identities over the years.

The twins actually have different academic skills. While Brittany is an excellent writer with a knack for humanities Abby is more mathematically orientated. This also showed in their grades. It turns out that even when you're a conjoined twin you don't get a break from your exams. You also have to take them separately.

10 You Are What You Eat

In addition to having different academic preferences the Hensel twins also have different physical reactions to certain foods.

For example Abby has a high tolerance to caffeine and drinking a cup of coffee will barely affect her at all. For Brittany however one cup of joe will give her heart palpitations and she will experience the jitters. They may share a colon but there are a whole bunch of unique physical sensations two people can experience before food reaches the digestive system.

11 Perfect Unison

Brittany and Abby have autonomous minds but they are so in tune with one another that they often feel as if they are one person.

When sitting down to write an e-mail the twins usually revert to the first person singular namely writing "I" rather than "we". Instead of sending separate messages they write as one. Apart from being more convenient they also seem to know each other so well that they exist in perfect unison.

12 Sense of Style

Brittany and Abby Hensel require tailored clothing designed especially for their body. They work with a seamstress who creates wider necklines for their shirts so that they can enjoy fashion at their convenience.

Although the twins share outfits they often accessorize differently. For example they will often wear different colored hats to add some individuality to their shared style. Generally though they keep their hair similar and also tend to do their makeup similarly to match their shared outfits.

13 Corrective Surgery

The Hensel twins were not surgically separated when they were born. Their unique condition however did require them to undergo minor corrective surgery when they were still babies.

When the twins were born they had a third arm which protruded from their joint shoulder. The doctors believed that the arm would have been more of an obstacle for them and so their parents made the decision to have the extra arm removed.

14 Back to School

When Abby and Brittany Hensel graduated from high school they made the decision to major in different subjects… and to study at different universities.

Unfortunately this option wasn't really possible considering the amount of work they had between them. The sheer volume of classes that they would have to attend made their studying extremely difficult. In the end they decided to compromise and chose a different degree. They opted to study Education and in 2012 the twins graduated together at Bethel University.

15 Moving Out

When Abby and Brittany Hensel graduated from university they decided to take a leap towards their independence. Like many young adults they thought it was time for them to move out of their parents' house and find a place of their own.

The move was a success and the twins are now entirely independent living in their own home. One day they hope to date and even have children. They are aware that this may be a challenge and are wary of the attention that they draw when leaving the house.

This was a big part of why they chose to star in their own documentary and answer any questions people had about their unique circumstances.

16 Reality TV

The Hensel twins were now the stars of their own reality TV show on the TLC network. The show followed the twins as they moved into their new home after graduation. It allowed curious fans to get a glimpse into the lives of these two remarkable women.

In addition to following the twins' relocation the documentary also followed their career path. Having studied education the two set out to teach at a local elementary school.

17 Happily Ever After

The Hensel twins are both great teachers who are living perfectly ordinary lives considering their extraordinary circumstances.

One thing that both twins are looking forward to is finding love. They believe they will one day find their "happily ever after" and hope that they can marry and have children just like other twins.

Of course the twins are aware that their unique situation makes dating difficult. Nonetheless they have faith that there is someone out there for each of them and that one day they will both find love.

18 Handling the Attention

Abby and Brittany Hensel are conscious of the attention that they receive. But it makes them particularly uncomfortable when people take their photographs without even asking for their permission.

The twins hoped that by opening up to the media they would be able to teach people that this kind of behavior is not acceptable. They frequently have to put up with pointing and staring and hope that speaking out will help destigmatize their condition and remind people that they are not a phenomenon to gape at - they are people with feelings.

19 Constant Practice

Since they were toddlers Abby and Brittany had exceptional coordination skills. This is why they are able to function on a day to day basis despite having distinct arms and legs. Still working together is something that requires constant practice and work.

A great way for the twins to practice their coordination skills is by playing sports. The twins are both very active and love most physical activities particularly volleyball and bowling. Playing these sports helps them improve their coordination further.

20 Perfect Fit

Another interesting physical difference between the Hensel twins is that they rarely get sick at the same time. One of them might have a head cold while the other is perfectly healthy. This is because although the twins share a body they have some separate organs.

Amazingly though the twins are actually very rarely sick. This probably has something to do with their healthy and active lifestyle. But it is particularly astounding as conjoined twins tend to suffer from medical complications more than most people.

21 Musical Talent

In addition to being highly active and engaged in physical activities the twins share a love of music. They are both talented musicians and enjoy playing the guitar and the piano together.

Although they already play two instruments they are trying to learn and master as many instruments as they can. They spend a lot of time practicing and actively seek out new musical instruments to take on. Musical practice takes an enormous amount of skill and coordination for anyone and the fact the twins are able to cooperate well enough to play together is all the more impressive.

22 Separate Meals

Another popular question the Hensels get asked is whether they eat one meal or two given that they share a body.

Although the twins are conjoined each has their own stomach and digestive system. They merge at the colon and so the twins eat separate meals and as well as getting hungry at different times have different tastes. When they eat out they tend to order different dishes. Occasionally though they like to share a burger.

23 Two Birthdays

Abby and Brittany share a birthday but they each celebrate their birthday in their own way. Each receives their own cake which is decorated differently according to her taste. Often they have their names iced on the cakes so they know which is which.

The cakes are usually different flavors so that the twins not only get their own cake but can enjoy the variety. Even though they get a cake each they are really having two cakes between them as they share almost everything. Well played.

24 Compromises

Sharing a body means that Abby and Brittany learned early on that they need to compromise. Compromising in any relationship is hard but when you are literally attached to your best friend at the hip it becomes even more important to set boundaries.

One challenge the twins encounter is their sleeping schedules. They admit it's a struggle when one of them is feeling tired while the other is wide awake. It is also difficult when one of the twins is sick while the other isn't.

25 Good Health

So far Abby and Brittany Hensel have been able to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. You could even say that they have been able to live a normal life whatever that means.

Nonetheless the doctors remain cautious. There have been only four sets of conjoined twins with similar conditions that survived into adulthood. All four sets suffered from organ anomalies such as heart defects. Fortunately the Hensel twins have not experienced any health problems that would suggest they are at risk.

26 Bump In the Road

When Abby and Brittany Hensel were twelve they had a medical scare. They had to be rushed into hospital when they experienced breathing difficulties from the constant pressure on their lungs as their ribcages grew.

Fortunately the doctors were able to successfully expand their ribcage to accommodate the growth of their body. This also resulted in the twins gaining an extra couple of inches in height. They have not experienced any major problems of this nature since the surgery took place.

27 Keep it Simple

Having a rare medical condition the Hensel twins are frequently approached by doctors who wish to study them. Scientists want to understand better their condition but the twins do not wish to be a medical marvel or a scientific case study.

Subsequently the twins and their parents made the decision to keep doctors away as much as possible. They have declined invitations to undergo unnecessary tests and examinations. Their main focus is to live an ordinary life and be treated as ordinary people and not curiosities.

28 Regular Check Ups

Although the twins avoid researchers and unnecessary experiments and tests they do receive regular check ups to ensure that their hearts are in healthy condition.

Heart problems are very common among conjoined twins. Abby and Brittany have not experienced heart problems themselves but the risk factor is high and so doctors like to keep a close eye on them. This is a cautionary procedure as the twins generally are in excellent health.

29 Unstoppable Force

These days Abigail and Brittany Hensel work as elementary school teachers. They are a dynamic duo and together are an unstoppable force.

Most of the time one of the twins will prepare the lesson plan while the other keeps an eye on the class. This means that they have eyes in all directions and can see if anybody is misbehaving at the back while they are talking.

One student joked: "You can't get away with anything in Ms. Hensel's class!"

30 Social Butterflies

Being stared and pointed at is unfortunately an everyday occurrence for the twins. People are not used to seeing conjoined twins and so they sometimes react inappropriately.

Admirably though Brittany and Abby do not hide away out of fear of being stared at. They keep their heads held high and live their life as social positive beings. They have a big group of friends and enjoy hanging out as much as the next person. Their positive attitude is worth remembering if you're having one of those self-conscious days.

31 Fighting the Stigma

It was Abigail and Brittany Hensel's own decision to open up about their lives and share their story with the public. They never hunted for fame nor were they pressured into it.

Their decision was largely down to their desire to educate people about their condition. People have many misconceptions about the twins and they hoped to break down the stigma and set things straight.

Now they are reality celebrities although ultimately they are more concerned about their careers their family and their friends.

32 Scientific Oddity

All conjoined twins are identical. This seems fairly logical. After all they share a womb and the same genetic code. The fertilized egg fails to separate completely fusing the bodies together and causing this unique phenomenon.

But what remains a mystery is the reason that the majority of conjoined twins are females. In fact only 30% of conjoined twins are males. Scientists are still unsure why this unbalanced ratio occurs with 70% of conjoined twins being female.

33 Non-Identical Conjoined Twins

Although most rules have their exception there was yet to be a case of conjoined twins where the siblings were non-identical.

Conjoined twins will always share the same sex and physical similarities as they will always share a genetic code. Of course that does not mean that the twins will share the same personality or character. Abby and Brittany Hensel have clearly demonstrated that being a conjoined twin does not equate to being the same person as your twin by any means.

34 Correct Terminology

The term "Siamese twins" may have been used to describe conjoined twins in the past but it was never an official term and is generally considered to be offensive.

The term originates from a pair of conjoined twins born in Siam (now known as Thailand). The twins immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1800s and became relatively well known. As they originated from Siam they became known as "the Siamese Twins". The term caught on even though it is not a medical term.

35 Powerful Choice

Approximately 200 conjoined twins are born each year around the world. Tragically over half of these children never make it past their first birthday. For twins with Brittany and Abby's condition the survival odds are even lower.

This means that the Hensel twins' story is an extreme rarity. It is not just the fact they survived that is impressive. What's truly remarkable is that they have made the choice to live their best life not in spite of their condition but because of it.

36 Financially Independent

One rather silly question people often raise is whether the twins have to pay for one ticket when they go to a movie theater. Sure they only take up one seat but two people are experiencing the film.

Perhaps the twins could get away with buying one ticket but they prefer to buy two. This applies to plane tickets as well for those who were wondering. They are autonomous individuals and strive to be financially independent from one another as well.

37 Shared Salary

Abby and Brittany Hensel may buy two tickets but they actually only get paid one salary. This is because they are only physically able to teach one class at a time.

This may sound unfair but the twins have accepted that they function as one teacher and that they are paid accordingly. This may be largely down to their positive attitude and the fact that they genuinely love their job and are passionate about teaching.

38 The Rest of the Family

Brittany and Abby actually have two other siblings: a brother named Dakota and a sister named Morgan.

The siblings live in Minnesota and are part of a tight-knit family. The twins' mother Patty is a registered nurse. Their father Mike is a carpenter. As a family the Hensels have had to make some difficult choices.

As parents though Mike and Patty have done a wonderful job of keeping the twins safe from nosy scientists and judgmental strangers. This is demonstrated by the impressive and inspirational adults Brittany and Abby have grown to be.

39 Body Heat

If you ever had a roommate you know what it's like to get into petty arguments about the AC. Abby and Brittany Hensel share more than a room but they do not share a body temperature.

This means that one of them is often either too hot or too cold only they have to make a decision on what to wear based on what the other twin wants too. Of course the twins are masters when it comes to compromising!