Doctor In Octuplet Delivery Speaks

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A woman gave birth to eight babies in Bellflower, Calif., on Monday. She had 46 doctors, nurses and assistants on hand for the delivery by C-section. Dr. Harold Henry, chief of maternal and fetal medicine at the Bellflower Medical Center, weighs in.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Yesterday, a woman gave birth to seven babies in Bellflower, California. That went as planned. With 46 doctors, nurses and assistants on hand for the delivery by C-section, the staff at the Bellflower Medical Center was ready for just about anything, including an unexpected eighth baby, which makes yesterday's delivery the second set of live octuplets born in U.S. history.

Joining me from the Bellflower Medical Center is Dr. Harold Henry. He's the chief of maternal and fetal medicine and one of the 46 that was on hand yesterday. Dr. Henry, welcome to the program.

Dr. HAROLD HENRY (Chief, Maternal and Fetal Medicine, Bellflower Medical Center): Thank you.

NORRIS: Now, with all the preparation that you did, how easy is it to miss an eighth baby if you think that you're expecting seven?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. HENRY: Well it turns out, it's quite easy to miss the - if you would just consider the fact that the uterus is really designed to hold no more than two babies for the most part. Now, with septuplets, you have seven heads, seven spines, 28 extremities, so you can really get a feel that it's a difficult assessment tool to use to try to determine if, in fact, there was a additional baby there.

NORRIS: Now, there were eight children born. They were nine weeks premature. They're all in incubators, how are they doing?

Dr. HENRY: They are doing surprisingly well at this point. Their condition is still guarded, but the last two were on - they were breathing by tube. As of this morning, all of the babies are on room air.

NORRIS: The mother has not been identified. The children have been identified as babies A, B, C, D all the way through baby H.

Dr. HENRY: Correct.

NORRIS: Can you tell us how mom is doing?

Dr. HENRY: Mom is actually doing very well. We observed her overnight in labor and delivery in anticipation of any possible complications due to an overly distended uterus. But she has done very well through the night. She's just about now to be reunited with her kids.

NORRIS: I understand that you had a few rehearsals...

Dr. HENRY: Absolutely.

NORRIS: Leading up to this. What do you do to prepare for this kind of birth?

Dr. HENRY: Well, what happens is is you assemble the team and we walk through it step by step, and so even the morning of the delivery, we had one final walk through - a dress rehearsal so to speak.

NORRIS: A drill, essentially.

Dr. HENRY: Exactly.

NORRIS: With 46 people.

Dr. HENRY: Exactly.

NORRIS: How do you do that? Forty-six people, four operating rooms is that correct?

Dr. HENRY: Yes, and so the main operating room was where the patient was and with two bassinets. And then the - each additional delivery room had two bassinets present. We started with baby A or let's say, nurse A and she would approach the table, identify herself as A. We would in turn echo baby A. That nurse would then take the baby into the room where bassinet A was.

And likewise and went all the way down the line until we got to baby G. We thought we were concluding at that point until we discovered that there was a baby H.

NORRIS: This obviously was quite tiring for the mother. How about the 46 people that were involved in the delivery?

Dr. HENRY: Oh, they're just jazzed. Everybody is just on cloud nine with the success of the delivery and really how well the babies are doing and how well mom is doing.

NORRIS: Well, Dr. Henry, it's been good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Dr. HENRY: Thank you.

NORRIS: Harold Henry is the chief of maternal and fetal medicine, and he was one of the 46 people who participated in the delivery of eight children at the Bellflower Medical Center in Bellflower, California.

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California Woman Gives Birth To Octuplets

Octuplets Ebuka, Echerem, Jioke, Chima, Gorom, Chidi, Ikem, Favor, and their mother, Nkem Chukwu. i

The seven surviving members of the first octuplets born in the United States celebrate their 10th birthday at a party on Dec. 20, 2008, in Houston. From left, Ebuka, Echerem, Jioke, Chima, Gorom, Chidi, Ikem, their youngest sister, Favor, and their mother, Nkem Chukwu. Eric Kayne/(AP /Houston Chronicle hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Kayne/(AP /Houston Chronicle
Octuplets Ebuka, Echerem, Jioke, Chima, Gorom, Chidi, Ikem, Favor, and their mother, Nkem Chukwu.

The seven surviving members of the first octuplets born in the United States celebrate their 10th birthday at a party on Dec. 20, 2008, in Houston. From left, Ebuka, Echerem, Jioke, Chima, Gorom, Chidi, Ikem, their youngest sister, Favor, and their mother, Nkem Chukwu.

Eric Kayne/(AP /Houston Chronicle

A woman in Southern California has given birth to octuplets, six boys and two girls. It's believed to be only the second successful delivery of octuplets in the U.S.

Already, a day after their birth, all eight octuplets are breathing on their own without the assistance of mechanical ventilators, according to doctors at the Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center.

"All babies seem to be stable," Dr. Karen Maples tells NBC's Today show.

The mother, who asked not to be identified, "is very comfortable now and is currently stable," says Maples, the center's chief of OB-GYN. "She's also very excited about the health of her babies and she's extremely happy."

The babies weigh between 1 pound, 8 ounces, and 3 pounds, 4 ounces. "The little one is actually very feisty and is doing very good right now," says Dr. Mandhir Gupta, a neonatologist who assisted with the delivery. "This baby was on the ventilator in the beginning, but I was able to take the breathing tube out last night."

The parents and their doctors were surprised when they found an eighth baby during the cesarean section.

"It is quite easy to miss a baby when you're anticipating seven," says Dr. Harold Henry, chief of maternal and fetal medicine at the center. He was one of the 46 doctors, nurses and assistants who helped with the delivery.

Mulitple births often result after the use of drugs aimed at increasing fertility. Officials at the Kaiser center declined to say whether the mother had taken fertility drugs.

The previous set of U.S. octuplets were born in Houston in 1998 to a 27-year-old Nigerian woman, Nkem Chukwu. The first infant, a girl, was born on Dec. 8 that year, followed by five more girls and two boys on Dec. 20.

Of these, the tiniest — 10.3 ounces at birth — survived only a week, dying of heart and lung failure. The largest weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces.

The survivors celebrated their 10th birthday last month in Houston.

Chukwu used fertility drugs, which greatly increases the chances of twins, triplets or even more.

In many cases, women are offered the option to selectively abort one or more fetuses during pregnancy to improve the survival chances of the other fetuses. Chukwu declined to do that, as did the woman in California who gave birth this week.

Studies have shown that babies born prematurely with very low birth weights are at very high risk of physical and mental impairment.

According to the parents, the surviving Chukwu children have developed normally and all healthy and active. They're in the middle of fourth grade.

From wire reports and NPR archives

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