Jackie Chan claims he spent 12 months in his mother’s womb and is that even possible?
Written by Roneel Narayan on August 22, 2023
Jackie Chan is a legendary Chinese actor who’s known for his action movies and martial arts moves.
But the 64-year-old’s other claim to fame is that he was, apparently, born three months overdue, spending a total of 12 months in his mother’s womb.
After first making the unbelievable claim somewhere early in his career, the Hong Kong-born actor has been quizzed on it multiple times, always insisting that it’s true.
In a 2010 interview with UK talk show host Jonathan Ross, when asked if it was true he was born after “12 months in the womb” he replied, “Yes”, adding he was a “huge baby”.
According to Chan, his parents couldn’t afford the surgery (a cesarean section) to have him delivered and even considered selling their son to pay the medical bill but were convinced by friends who loaned them the money to keep him.
Now, we know what you’re thinking, because it’s exactly what we were thinking: “is this actually possible to be born three months overdue? Surely not?”
Well, according to Melbourne-based obstetrician Dr Joseph Sgroi, it is “highly unlikely” Chan’s claims are true.
“It’s highly unlikely that you would have a pregnancy that would go beyond 10 or 11 months. Highly unlikely,” he told Mamamia.
“It may just be that his mum had irregular periods and she might have thought that she was three months more pregnant than she actually was,” Dr Sgroi suggested.
He added that there isn’t a lot of data on babies being born extremely overdue. That is because, in Australia, along with most developed nations, it’s just not allowed to happen.
What happens when a baby is overdue?
To help us understand why Dr Sgroi first explained that the concept of “term” being 40 weeks isn’t medically correct.
Instead, a baby is actually considered a “term” beyond 37 weeks gestation.
“We call them early term between 37 and 38 weeks and six days. We call babies full-term between 39 weeks and 40 weeks and six days, late-term between 41 weeks and 41 weeks and six days and post-term after 42 weeks.”
“In Australia, the chance of pregnancies going beyond 42 weeks is in the order of less than five per cent.”
Dr Sgroi said that “in most scenarios” doctors will induce women after 41 weeks and three days, adding that medical professionals “definitely” don’t want pregnancies going beyond 42 weeks.
“[Throughout the third trimester] we’re monitoring and making an educated assessment as to whether the pregnancy can continue or alternatively whether we should bring on labour,” he said.
The gynaecologist said that doctors recommend inducing at this point for a few reasons, but the major one is that the rate of stillbirth increases at 41 and 42 weeks.
“Between 40 and 41 weeks that rate is somewhere in the order of one in 1000 pregnancies. By the time you get to 42 weeks, it can be two in 1000,” he said.
“So the risk is still quite low, but it’s not zero.”
Dr Sgroi said the likelihood of complications like a baby becoming too big to deliver vaginally and also a baby’s growth slowing also increases at late and post-term. So naturally, it’s better for everyone if babies are born before 41 weeks and three days.
In fact, a 2018 investigation called the ARRIVE study, found that if all mothers were electively induced at 39 weeks, then there was a reduced rate of stillbirths and a reduction in the number of cesareans being required.
Dr Sgroi added that babies born at 39 weeks had no ongoing differences in development from babies born at 41 weeks.
He said that the Australians’ most important thing that pregnant women can do is trust their mother’s intuition and speak up if they notice anything wrong with their baby, such as decreased movements.
As for Jackie Chan, well it’s possible his outlandish claim may be just a matter of a simple translation issue.
In traditional Chinese culture, there is a way of calculating people’s ages according to the Lunar calendar. According to this method of counting age, the baby is considered one year old at birth and gains a year in age each Chinese (lunar) New Year.
It’s possible that Jackie Chan confirms his story each time – that he was born as a one-year-old – not realising what all the fuss is about. Because it seems the real reason the story is note-worthy to him is the impact his caesarean birth had on his family.