Wow, will she ever get a minute to herself.An American woman has become only the second person in the world to give birth to live octuplets, but fears remain for the health of the six boys and two girls who weigh as little as 1lb 8oz.
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
Last Updated: 7:13PM GMT 27 Jan 2009
The mother, who has yet to be identified, was expecting to give birth to seven babies on Monday but doctors were stunned when an eighth emerged.
All eight babies, born by caesarean section and all delivered within five minutes, were, however, last night said to be doing "very, very well" with even the smallest, a boy, described as "very feisty" by doctors.
The children – six boys and two girls – were born nine weeks prematurely and delivered by a team of 46 doctors, nurses and assistants at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Centre, near Los Angeles.
All were in incubators but two initially placed on ventilators were yesterday breathing on their own. The babies weighed between 1 pound 8 oz and 3 pounds 4 oz and were identified by the letters A to H.
"We decided to proceed with the delivery in anticipation of seven babies. We had done some drills, some preliminary dry runs," said Dr Karen Maples, chief of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology who cared for the mother since the first trimester.
"Lo and behold, after we got to Baby G, which is what we expected, we were surprised by Baby H."
After the seventh baby was born, one of the doctors, Alejandro Vasquez, cried out: "Wait a minute, I think I feel a hand," and the eighth baby emerged.
"What a shocker this was," Dr Maples said. She described it as "a truly amazing delivery."
"It is quite easy to miss a baby when you're anticipating seven," said Dr Harold Henry, chief of maternal and foetal medicine at the hospital. "Ultrasound doesn't show you everything."
The babies are expected to remain in the hospital for at least two months while the mother should be released in a week.
She is planning to breast-feed all eight infants, said Mandhir Gupta, head of neonatology at the centre. "She's a very strong woman. She should be able to take care of all eight of them."
Dr Maples described the mother, who was admitted to hospital seven weeks before the birth and was conscious during the delivery, as "very comfortable".
"She's also very excited about the health of her babies and she's extremely happy."
Doctors cautioned the babies might still require assistance with breathing and could face additional problems.
"They face many obstacles," Dr Gupta said. "Weight is a concern, (the smaller one) has a long way to go."
But in general, they "are doing actually very, very well," he told ABC Television yesterday.
The world's first live octuplets were born in March 1967 in Mexico City, but all died within 14 hours.
The first live set to be born in the US were delivered in Houston in 1998, three months premature. The smallest, who weighed only 10.3 oz at birth, died a week later. The rest of the babies – the largest of whom weighed 1 pound, 11 oz – survived and turned 10 in December.
Their parents, Nigerian-born Nkem Chukwu and Iyke Louis Udobi, sent best wishes to the new parents. "It's a blessing, truly a blessing," Ms Chukwu said. "We'll keep praying for them."
In 1996, Mandy Allwood, from Warwickshire, became pregnant with octuplets after undergoing fertility treatment but lost all eight babies.
It was not revealed whether the mother in California conceived the babies with the help of fertility treatment but experts said it was likely.
She is planning on breast feeding too :-o