Twins, triplets, quadruplets…even septuplets ― the list keeps growing when it comes mothers giving birth to multiple babies at the same time.
In 2009, Nadya Suleman, or “Octomom” as she is commonly known, delivered six boys and two girls in California, USA. Her babies, who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilisation, were born nine weeks premature.
Indeed, advancements in technology and fertility treatment options have increased the incidence of multiple pregnancies, while improvements in neonatal care have raised the babies’ survival odds.
Over the years, jaw-dropping multiple births have been taking place all over the world. We round up some of the most fascinating stories.
1. Twins born in different years
In October 1994, New Orleans mum Simone Keys went into early labour and gave birth to a premature son, Timothy, who weighed 850g. What’s amazing is that Timothy has a twin sister Celeste, who was able to stay in her mother’s womb for another three months and was born full-term in January 1995. Born 95 days apart ― and in different years ― the pair holds the world record for the longest interval between the delivery of twin babies.
Valentina Vassilyeva of Russia had a total of 69 children… 16 sets of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets.
2. First five
The first-ever set of quintuplets to survive infancy was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1934. The five girls, Emilie, Annette, Marie, Cecile and Yvonne, spent the first nine years of their lives in “Quintland”, a hospital located directly opposite the street from their parents’ farmhouse. Unfortunately, the Dionne quintuplets were quite the media sensation back then, and tourists and passersby lined up for hours to gawk at them. There was even a spot outside the hospital, where a pile of rocks lay, that was dubbed “fertility stones”. Infertile mums flocked here, hoping that being in close proximity to them would increase their chances of conceiving.
3. And then there were nine
While record for the largest number of surviving babies in a single birth go to Octomum Nadya Suleman, there have been two known cases of nonuplets, though the babies didn’t survive past infancy. The first set was born in 1971 in Sydney, Australia ― two babies were stillborn and the last surviving baby died six days after being born. Closer to home, nine babies were born to a couple in Malaysia in 1999, but sadly, none of them survived more than six hours.
4. More, and more!
If raising one set of twins is hard, and caring for two sets of twins poses an even greater challenge, well, Valentina Vassilyeva of Russia had a total of 69 children. This bounty included 16 sets of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. The incredible thing is that she was a peasant in the 1700s, and only lost two babies in infancy during a time where the infant mortality rate was extremely high.
What’s in the diet of a country that boasts twin-birth rates four times higher than the rest of the world?
5. Twin zone
Twin births in West Africa are about four times higher than the rest of the world. In the town of Igbo-Ora, Nigeria, virtually every household has at least one set of twins. Their diet is a possible reason for their fertility ― the Yobura people eat mainly cassava, a tuber root. Research suggests that a high level of a chemical found in the tuber is linked to the release of more than one egg, which increases the chances of a twin pregnancy.
She gave birth to triplets ― identical twins Ruby and Tilly were born from one womb, while Grace was born from the other.
6. Three from two
Hannah Kersey, from Devon in the UK, has a condition called uterus didelphys, meaning that she has two wombs. In 2006, she gave birth to triplets ― identical twins Ruby and Tilly were born from one womb, while Grace was born from the other. They were conceived from two eggs ― one in each womb ― which were fertilised at the same time by two different sperm. One egg divided to produce the identical twins, and the other developed into a single baby. The odds of that happening are about 25 million to one.
7. Colour blind
There have been several instances in which mixed-race parents have given birth to twins of seemingly different colours. This can happen when thanks to the roll of the DNA dice, each of the twins inherit the genes of only one parent. British couple Kylie Hodgson and Remi Horder, who are both born to mixed-race parents, had twin girls in 2005, one who is blond and fair-skinned and one who has dark colouring. In 2008, Proud parents Florence Addo-Gerth and Stephan Gerth welcomed their “black and white twins”. Florence is from Ghana in West Africa and Stephan is from Germany.
8. Different dads
A pair of twin baby boys were born in 2008 to Mia Washington in Texas, USA, but were later found to have different dads. Washington had decided to take a paternity test when she felt that her twin boys had very different facial features. As it turns out, the test showed that there was just a 0.001 chance that the twins could have the same father. Washington admitted that she had cheated on her partner James Harrison and had been impregnated with the sperm of two men in the same ovulation cycle ― resulting in a one-in-a-million double conception. The result is that one twin, Jordan, is Harrison’s biological son but the other one, Justin, was fathered by a man whose identity has not been released. Harrison forgave his partner’s infidelity and vowed to stay with her and raise both boys as his own.
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