November 19, 1997: Kenny, Alexis, Natalie, Kelsey, Nathan, Brandon, and Joel are born in Des Moines, Iowa. Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey (pronounced McCoy) and older sister, 22-month-old Mikayla, were inundated with babies born nine weeks early. Drs. Karen Drake and Paula Mahone tended to the high-risk pregnancy. The multiple births were the result of fertility treatments. The babies are the second instance of all seven babies being born alive and the first where all seven survived infancy. Two of the children have medical problems (cerebral palsy) associated with premature births.
The babies weighed between 2 pounds, 5 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces for a total weight of 19 pounds, 14 ounces at birth. The McCaugheys received many generous gifts after the birth of the children. They were given a 5,500 square foot house, a van, and diapers for the first two years. They received nanny services and the state of Iowa has promised college educations to the children should they want to go to an Iowa state university. The surviving Dionne quintuplets, born on May 28, 1934, wrote to the parents warning of the dangers of rabid media attention along with congratulations to the family. By their tenth birthday, the McCaughey children were mostly out of the limelight.
Multiple births in humans is on the rise. The most common type of multiple births is twins or double births. Fraternal or dizygotic twins result from two eggs being fertilized. Identical or monozygotic twins have one egg fertilized that then splits to form two babies. When the split is incomplete, conjoined twins are the result. Since the advent of infertility treatments, the rates of multiple births have increased by 35% in Canada and 46% in the US. There were 136,000 multiple births in the US in 2003.
These high-risk pregnancies are leading to more babies being born with special needs due to premature birth and low birth weights. Singletons are born early 9.43% of the time while twins are early 50.74% and triplets are premature 91.03% of the time. Very pre-term numbers show the same pattern. Preemies are plagued by a number of problems due to low birth weight and organ immaturity. The most common problem is cerebral palsy, a condition more likely to develop in pre-term babies. But even more troubling is the rate of stillbirths which dramatically increase with multiple births.
“Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!” – Bobbi McCaughey
“It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money. ” – Elinor Goulding Smith
“Families with babies and families without babies are sorry for each other.” – Ed Howe
“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” – Carl Sandburg
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term with scientists saying it is neither genetic nor a disease. It is a non-progressive and non-contagious motor condition causing physical disability in human development. It is found to be congenital or diagnosed at or soon after birth. The condition affects muscle tone, posture, and movement that is the result of a lesion of the immature brain. The motor loss is often accompanied by loss of sensation, depth perception, as well as other sight perception anomalies, and communication issues. There are some instances of decreased cognition and epilepsy is found in about one-third of all CP cases. There are several different subtypes and those are based usually on the degree of spasticity. There is no known cure but better treatment modalities available for premature birth have lessened the occurrence. Treatment is used to ameliorate the complications from the condition.
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