Triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, and more may seem almost commonplace now compared to years past, at least to those of us who just read about them. But they are anything but commonplace to parents who find themselves suddenly leading a large family! Until just a few decades ago, multiple conceptions were rare, and surviving children from multiple births were extremely rare. Advances in prenatal diagnosis and neonatal care have raised the odds of survival, and fertility drugs have increased the incidence of multiple pregnancies. Scientists believe another factor is the growing tendency for women to give birth at an older age, since multiples are more common in older mothers.
Triplets occur naturally only in one of about 6400 births, but the rate has skyrocketed with the use of fertility therapies. On May 4, 2007, Kyle, Emma, and Katie Coble, ages 5, 4, and 2, were killed in a car wreck that injured their mother and grandmother. Their parents, Lori and Chris Coble couldn't imagine life without children and opted for in-vitro fertilization a few months later. Three of the ten fertilized embryos were viable, and the Cobles insisted on implanting all three, even though their doctor preferred to use only two. The triplets were born on May first, and are said to be doing well at a hospital in Orange County, California. The two girls and a boy are named Ashley, Ellie and Jake.
The Keys quadruplets were born in 1915 in Hollis, Oklahoma. Alma Keys knew something was different about her fifth pregnancy, but she didn't know what until the four girls were born. The family turned down circus and freak show offers, but put the four on display every year at the state fair to raise money. The quadruplets were granted a full scholarship to Baylor University and graduated together in 1937.
The Fultz quadruplets were four identical girls born in 1946 in Rockingham, North Carolina. They grew up advertsing Pet Milk products. Three of the Fultz sisters died of breast cancer; the remaining sibling, Catherine Fultz Griffin, was treated for breast cancer. The News-Record of North Caroina has the story of the Fultz quads in a six-part series.
Continue reading for more quads, quints, sexts, septs, and more.
Lee and Pam Deschler of Pennsylvania kept an online diary from the time they found out they were going to have four babies at once until the children were 5 and a half. Most quadruplets are born around 29 weeks of pregnancy (39-40 weeks is normal for a single pregnancy). With the help of first-class medical supervision at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, the babies were delivered at 32 weeks and 5 days, weighing 3-4 pounds each. Reading their story gives one just a taste of how scary carrying multiple babies can be.
Karen Jepp of Calgary, Alberta bore four daughters last August, a rare instance of identical quadruplets. The babies were conceived without fertility drugs, and were delivered two months early. The odds of identical quadruplets are about one in 13 million. Less than 50 cases appear in medical records (including the Fultz quads). Karen and her husband J.P. traveled to Great Falls, Montana for the Caesarian birth, making the four girls American citizens. The quadruplets have been home a few months now, and are thriving.
The Dionne sisters were the first quintuplets to survive infancy. The five identical girls were born prematurely on May 28, 1934, near Corbeil, Ontario to Elzire and her husband Oliva Dionne. The government of Ontario took custody of the girls from their parents and raised them in a specially-built facility that came to be known as Quintland. Marie, Cecile, Yvonne, Emilie, and Annette were made wards of the crown to protect them from exploitation. However, they were exploited by their new guardians. The quints lived an isolated life while Quintland saw millions of visitors (and dollars). The family regained custody when the sisters were nine years old, but they never bonded with their biological parents. They later broke off all contact with the family. The two surviving sisters, Annette and CÃ©cile, are almost 74. An extensive history of the Dionne quints is online at Quintland. Also see videos of the Dionne quintuplets.
The Diligenti quintuplets were born in Argentina in 1943. Their parents, Italian immigrant Franco Diligenti and opera singer Ana Aversano kept the event a secret, going so far as to register the births in different districts. They were determined to shield their children from the intense publicity surrounding the Dionne family, and were, for the most part, successful. Now age 64, the Diligenti quints are the world's oldest complete set of quintuplets.
The Fischer quintuplets were the first known set of surviving quintuplets in the US. The four girls and a boy were born on September 14th, 1963 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Their childhood was documented in magazines and in collectible kitsch, such as dolls and calendars. As they approach 45, all the quintuplets still live in the Aberdeen area.
The Dilley sextuplets were the first surviving sextuplets in the United States. The family and their medical team were prepared for quintuplets after an ultrasound detected five heartbeats. After delivering five by Caesarian section, there was still another baby underneath! The four boys and two girls will turn 15 years old on May 25th. See a video of the family.
Kate Gosselin has only been pregnant twice, but delivered eight children. Twin girls were born in 2000, followed by sextuplets in 2004. The delivery of the three boys and three girls was attended by a team of 50 doctors, nurses, and specialists in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Gosselin family has a reality show on The Learning Channel (TLC) called John and Kate Plus 8, airing Mondays at 9PM EDT. You can read their story at the family's website.
The Harris sextuplets of Birmingham, Alabama were born on July 7, 2002. They are the first surviving set of African-American sextuplets in the USA, all born healthy. Like the Dilleys, they were expecting quintuplets and were surprised at the sixth child. In 2005, the TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition sent the six toddlers, along with their parents Chris and Diamond and older brother Dewayne to Walt Disney World and built them a new 5,800 square foot home.
Patti Frustaci was the first woman in the US to give birth to septuplets. The four boys and three girls were delivered by Caesarian section 12 weeks prematurely. One girl was stillborn, and two boys and a girl died within 19 days from hyaline membrane disease, a complication of prematurity. The three surviving infants, Richard, Patricia and Stephen were found to have developmental deficits and cerebral palsy. Sam and Patti Frustaci sued their fertility doctor and clinic and accepted a 2.7 million dollar settlement. The couple later conceived healthy twins, but the family broke up sometime afterward.
Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey produced the world's first surviving set of septuplets on November 19, 1997. The babies were conceived with the help of fertility drugs. The McCaugheys received some negative publicity due to their decision not to have "selective reduction" performed in order to boost the survival chances of the remaining babies. The septuplets were delivered nine weeks prematurely, and two of the children have cerebral palsy. The family grants very few interview requests outside of yearly updates with Ladies Home Journal (posing here with their older sister Mikayla) and Dateline NBC, where you can see their tenth birthday report.
The first octuplets born in the US were the offspring of Nkem Chukwu and her husband Iyke Louis Udobi of Houston, Texas. The oldest, a girl named Ebuka was born December 8th, 1998, 15 weeks prematurely. A medical team was able to delay the other babies until their Caesarian delivery on December 20th. All the babies weighed less than two pounds. The smallest, a 10.3 ounce girl named Odera, died a week after birth. The remaining five girls and two boys are reportedly healthy at nine years old.
There have been a few cases recorded of nontuplets conceived, but no incidences of any of the children surviving.