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Texas Mom Gives Birth to Octuplets

December 20, 1998

HOUSTON (AP) _ A 27-year-old woman on Sunday became the mother of the first known surviving set of octuplets, giving birth to five girls and two boys. Another child, a girl, was born on Dec. 8.

All eight were in critical condition on Sunday, with some weighing as little as 11 ounces, doctors said.

Nkem Chukwu, who had taken fertility drugs, gave birth to seven of the children by Caesarean section about 9 a.m.

Until the first child was born nearly two weeks earlier, doctors were unsure how many other fetuses Ms. Chukwu was carrying, said Dr. Brian Kirshon, who was among three doctors who delivered the children. A sonogram showed the remaining fetuses.

The girl born Dec. 8 was 12 weeks premature. The others were born 10 weeks early, the doctors said.

The babies’ weight ranges from 11 ounces to 1 pound, 11 ounces.

Ms. Chukwu was in stable condition at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Kirshon said. Immediately after delivery, the babies were taken to the adjacent Texas Children’s Hospital.

``They’re doing as well as could be expected,″ said Dr. Patti Saverick, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital. ``They’re hanging in there.″

The children are the first for Ms. Chukwu and her husband, Ike, who are from Houston. They had long tried to have children before resorting to fertility drugs, Kirshon said. Ms. Chukwu suffered a miscarriage of triplets earlier this year while on the drugs.

``She has been rather private,″ the doctor said. ``The recent loss she had earlier this year made her cautious about this pregnancy.″

Ms. Chukwu entered the hospital in early October and has been confined to bed for six weeks, Kirshon said.

To keep pressure off her lower body for the past two or three weeks, her bed was at an extreme incline with her head toward the floor, he said.

``I think she is remarkable in that she was able to tolerate extreme conditions, to lie upside down in that degree of discomfort and that degree of immobility,″ Kirshon said.

The hospital had honored the couple’s request for privacy. Word about the octuplets didn’t emerge until tips were called in to at least two news organizations Sunday.

Kirshon, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, said at least 25 people were involved in the deliveries, ferrying the babies in assembly-line fashion as they were removed from Ms. Chukwu’s womb.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest multiple birth was nine babies in Sydney, Australia, in 1971. Six of those children survived.

Three other octuplet births have been recorded in the past 13 years, but in each of the births, some of the babies died.

Rosario Clavijo, 31, of Huelva, Spain, became pregnant with the aid of fertility drugs and gave birth Dec. 5, 1996, to six healthy babies _ four boys and two girls. Two children died.

In August 1996, a 32-year-old British woman, Mandy Allwood, conceived eight fetuses and rejected medical advice to abort some of them. All of them died. She was criticized after she sold her story to a tabloid newspaper with a payment based on how many live births she produced.

On Nov. 19, 1997, Bobbi McCaughey of Carlisle, Iowa, gave birth to septuplets, the second set of septuplets to be born alive. All seven survived. She had also taken fertility drugs.

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