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Californian woman gives birth to octuplets -

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Californian woman gives birth to octuplets

The World Today - Wednesday, 28 January , 2009 12:44:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

BRENDAN TREMBATH: A Californian woman has become a mother of eight in what doctors are describing
as a truly amazing delivery.

It's thought to be only the second time a set of octuplets has been born alive in the US.

It's not clear how the babies were conceived, but reproductive experts say it's possible fertility
drugs were misused.

Barbara Miller has our report.

BARBARA MILLER: Staff at the Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in LA were preparing for a
big operation. They thought their patient was carrying seven babies. The eighth came as a surprise.

Karen Maples is the head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the clinic.

KAREN MAPLES: It was a shock, especially with finding the eight baby was - you know, my eyes were
definitely wide. But, yes, it is a marvellous - and this patient was incredibly courageous, very
strong.

BARBARA MILLER: Karen Maples says it was an incredible moment.

KAREN MAPLES: Today we had an unprecedented, very exciting day in our operating room and labour
delivery. Our team of 46 physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists as well as surgical techs
delivered eight babies, all live born, very vigorous. It was a truly, truly amazing delivery.

BARBARA MILLER: The babies were born at 31 weeks by caesarean section.

PETER LUTJEN: To get, you know, eight babies past that point in itself is a bit of a miracle
because generally these are pregnancies that will terminate themselves quite early on.

BARBARA MILLER: But Associate Professor Peter Lutjen, the Medical Director for Monash IVF, has
reservations about the birth.

PETER LUTJEN: To have a pregnancy of that extent, if it was medically managed, is very
disappointing. It's the sort of thing that shouldn't happen. It's an extremely high-risk pregnancy.
Certainly from an obstetrician's point of view, a pregnancy of that order of magnitude is a
disaster.

BARBARA MILLER: No details have been released of how the babies were conceived, but Peter Lutjen
says it's highly unlikely to have occurred naturally.

PETER LUTJEN: I suppose it's possible, but it would be unlikely in the extreme.

BARBARA MILLER: What's your suspicion, then, of how these babies came to be conceived?

PETER LUTJEN: Possibly the most likely thing would be the use of fertility drugs, certainly
assisted reproductive technology such as IVF, an occurrence like this these days would be very rare
as well, due to the laws that, you know, govern us and the recommendations that have been given to
us by government in limiting the number of embryos that are transferred.

BARBARA MILLER: In Australia, how many embryos was the maximum number you could transfer?

PETER LUTJEN: Again, it varies from state to state in Australia. Certainly the legislation I'm more
familiar with is my own here in Victoria. And the recommendations here are no more than two embryos
be transferred. Most IVF units that are now transferring day-five or blastocyst embryos are moving
towards single embryo transfers due to the high pregnancy rate. And that is certainly our practice
here at Monash IVF.

BARBARA MILLER: When you say that, then, perhaps fertility drugs were used, would these be drugs
that someone would be prescribed.

PETER LUTJEN: Certainly in Australia, these drugs are prescription only, and the doctor prescribing
them requires a special warrant or certification from the Government to be able to describe those
drugs.

So, the purpose behind that is generally to hopefully ensure that the drugs are used in accordance
with the guidelines that they're meant for. Certainly eight embryos been formed by the use of
fertility drugs would indicate those guidelines weren't followed or the drugs weren't used under
medical supervision.

BARBARA MILLER: The babies' mother hasn't been named, but she's said to be doing well. And she'll
have to be. Mandhir Gupta is the neonatologist at the LA clinic.

MANDHIR GUPTA: We do encourage breastfeeding a lot, and she is trying to breastfeed the babies.

BARBARA MILLER: A set of octuplets was born in Mexico City in the 1960s, but all the babies died
soon after birth. Ten years ago in Houston, a woman also gave birth to octuplets; seven survived.
Their mother was asked for her advice to the mother of the new set. "Have fun" she said, "and get
help."

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Barbara Miller.