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Octuplets: Scientific Miracle or Life-Long Danger?

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Our pediatrician weighs in.


At 31 weeks pregnant, the California mother of octuplets gave birth to six boys and two girls. Though considered a miracle by many, there are many very serious health issues to be aware of, and choosing to continue carrying all eight babies is a very serious decision. "Babies have less room to grow when there are multiples in the womb," says ML pediatrician Dr.Cara Natterson, "All of these babies were born below 'normal' weight and three of the babies were born at less than 1000 grams, that is very very small."

Premature babies will typically face many short and long-term health issues including: breathing and lung problems, physical and mental development challenges and infections from being in the hospital for an extended period of time when their immune systems are still extremely fragile. For a baby under 1000 grams, these risks get even greater and the likelihood of these health issues exacerbated.

Of course, premature babies have a higher risk of mortality as well. In celebrating the miracle of birthing eight children, shouldn't we be concerned as to how this will affect the lives of these babies? Parents do have the option for selective reduction, and we don't know why in this case the mother did not choose that option. Dr. Cara stresses that "the number of risks increases with each fetus. They have less room to grow, therefore they are more likely to be premature."

next: Was Family Massacre Mom's Idea?
14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous January 28, 2009, 1:43 PM

Not everyone believes that selective reduction is an option for moral or religious beliefs. Not all premature babies suffer long lasting effects. Not all full term (singletons) are born healthy. Sometimes seemingly healthy full term infants will develop some sort of health problem after birth. It is not fair to scold (for lack of a better word) this woman who chose to carry all of the babies. It was her decision and really is of no concern to anyone else.

LaLa Land January 28, 2009, 7:49 PM

J&K+8 all their kids look healthy except maybe Aaden, the kid with the glasses. That reality show about sextuplets and twins makes you believe that it’s a good thing to have multiples. I know it’s a lucrative thing. Check out all the stuff J&K+8 get and neither parent is even working anymore! They are always on vacation at some luxury resort or fabulous beach house. They have it made! Everyone should have at least 6 at a time.

Deanna January 29, 2009, 3:15 PM

These articles are so depressing. The woman had 8 healthy babies. And it appears by the statements in most of these articles on the subject that believe that killing the babies would be better than having them survive “shouldn’t we be concerned as to how this will affect the lives of these babies” “why didn’t she chose selective reduction?”. So should every poor baby in America be selectively reduced as well. Should we start a policy like in china where we force women to abort if they have more than one child or are too poor to pay the tax. OUr president was raised by a single mom that had to struggle. I take issue with the lack of celebration in the articles chosen for this site…How about celebrating motherhood (even in this case) rather than discouraging it…

Karen January 29, 2009, 6:15 PM

The thing is…this pregnancy was almost certainly the result of infertility treatment. I have a suspicion that (no I don’t have the facts…but…) the parents decided it was God’s will for her to have 8 babies. If it was indeed infertility treatment, I can’t understand why they did not see it as God’s will that they not have any children. People tend to believe that anything they want is God’s will. Additionally, to suggest this is no one else’s business is short sighted. It is almost certain that some or all of these children will have developmental disabilities and will be a huge drain on whatever school district they happen to land in. They also will probably need public assistance for the medical costs. People need to pull their heads out of the sand and realize that no man is an island. Each and every thing we do effects all of our fellow earth dwellers, human and otherwise. Some things have minutely small affects, some huge…but all are interrelated and this one seems extremely selfish and thoughtless to me.

Cookie January 31, 2009, 7:49 AM

I have seen a lot of comments about choice in regards to fetal reduction, and I agree that the mother SHOULD have the choice to carry all or reduce, however, that when there are six children at home a mother should consider the risk of maternal mortality when making the decision to try to carry 7 or 8 babies to full term. I don’t want to sound morbid, but everyone is talking about the cost of these eight babies, and I haven’t seen anyone pose the question of - what would happen to the 6 children she already brought into this world if this pregnancy had killed her. Thank God it didn’t! Choice is important to all women and many wouldn’t emotionally be able to reduce, I understand that. On the other hand, if the mother and her parents cannot financially support all 14 children and end up receiving state or federal aid, when do the tax payers get to choose whether or not they want to support her children????? I wish the best to this family as this is going to be a VERY LONG road for them. PS - if they didn’t want media attention, they could’ve told the hospital that they wanted NO statement or annoucement made regarding this medical event.

Gail February 1, 2009, 10:35 AM

I once had a dog who gave birth to eight healthy puppies - she was a superb mother, and they were weaned and bought by new families at 8-10 weeks except for one which I kept. Female dogs are endowed by God and nature to usually give birth to 4+ offspring at one time - human bodies are not. What’s more, human mothers, of course, keep their offspring for many, many more years before sending them out into the world alone.

I would question the morality and intelligence of any woman who decided, when she could not financially support whatever children she already had, to deliberately take infertility treatments that often produce multiple births.

Humans have the right to procreate and reproduce. But I don’t think it’s fair for them to deliberately choose an option which will force a community or a state to support a batch of four, five, six, whatever multiple-born children, especially if they already have other children!

As for Deanna’s post about Barack Obama’s mother - she was not a fool. She married and gave birth to one child, had her parents’ support, struggled, but did not go out and take medical treatments that were likely to give her multiple children. She divorced Obama Sr., married another man and had one other child (with her second husband’s support), not eight more by a sperm doner!

jillian February 5, 2009, 4:35 AM

This 33 year old single woman (Nadya Suleman) was unemployed, had 6 children under 8 (one of which has autism), was already receiving Welfare and lived with her bankrupt parents. She then intentionally had 8 embryos implanted in her. Her mother stated that she went to Mexico to have this procedure done, which probably would be the case since the supposed Sperm Donor wouldn’t give his consent to use the embryos after he got married last year and she would have needed his consent in the U.S.

Who did Nadya think was going to pay for her 14 children???? The taxpayers of course. She shouldn’t be rewarded by anyone (Social Services, the public or Media outlets etc.) for her selfishness and arrogance. She’s a selfish spoiled brat who wants to use the Welfare System the way she used her parents all these years.

Crys February 9, 2009, 8:36 AM

Dear LaLaLand,
Please return from LaLaLand. J&K+8 is a reality tv show, and anyone who is still capable of thought has figured out by this time that the term ‘reality tv’ is an oxymoron. I cling to the believe that people are actually able to figure that out. I have this sneaky feeling that if they hadn’t gotten the show, at least one parent would be working. The fact neither is, yet has lots of money, is the draw of ‘reality tv’: it’s something you wish were true, but absoltely isn’t. Perhaps you should lay off the reality tv and take a look around at what is actually considered ‘reality’ by those of us who don’t need to live vicariously through 2 imaginary people who will get other acting jobs later. Yes, the kids are theirs, but the rest is staged. Seriously, I can’t see how a person could be that out of touch with the world and survive to adulthood; that would be like saying the people on Fantasy Island had glamourous lives even after the cameras stopped rolling.

Anonymous February 23, 2009, 9:47 AM

If GOD didn’t want all of those precious babies here in this world, he would have “reduced” the set himself!! Everything happens for a reason….kids are born for a reason!!! Right now no one understands why…..who knows one of those could be the one that discovers the cure for cancer! NO ONE knows what the future holds for them!! Even though some may think that its her fault or the doctors fault that this happened…IT’S GODS DECISION on how many he let be born into this world! IN THE END….GOD HAS THE LAST WORD!!!

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