What are the chances of falling pregnant with decuplets? Plus, how dangerous is it?

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A Gauteng-based woman, Gosiame Thamara Sithole, is said to have given birth to the world's first decuplets. (Pierre Ogeron/Getty Images)
A Gauteng-based woman, Gosiame Thamara Sithole, is said to have given birth to the world's first decuplets. (Pierre Ogeron/Getty Images)

According to an online report, a Gauteng-based woman, Gosiame Thamara Sithole, is said to have given birth to the world's first decuplets.

With seven boys and three girls reportedly born via C-section, this would be a world first if true, especially since Sithole claims the pregnancy was completely natural.

But what are the chances of this actually happening? While the world waits for the story to be verified, as local government has been unable to verify the authenticity of this birth at their facilities, Parent24 spoke to Dr. Lizle Oosthuizen of Cape Fertility to find out more about how a decuplet pregnancy might occur.   

"When an egg and a sperm combine they form an embryo. Multiple pregnancies can be from multiple eggs being ovulated, or from embryos splitting," she explained.

Also read: Has a Gauteng woman given birth to 10 kids? Govt says it can't find verification after media reports 

'It is very unlikely'  

Although twins and triplets can happen naturally, it is very unlikely that a woman can ovulate so many eggs, or have so many embryos split without fertility treatment, she added.

"I obviously can’t comment on whether she underwent treatment or not, but this is most often from unmonitored use of medication to increase the number of eggs ovulated, called super-ovulation," Dr Oosthuizen told us.

Fertility specialists will monitor women who have these medications to make sure they do not grow and ovulate multiple eggs as the risk of a higher-order multiple pregnancy is then too high. 

"This is why we do not like to prescribe these medications without an assessment first and strict monitoring. In South Africa, when doing IVF, we have regulations that stipulate we should not transfer more than two embryos during IVF treatment specifically for this reason," she says. 

The dangers of a multiple pregnancy

A multiple pregnancy is both dangerous to the mother and the babies.

The mother is at risk of developing complications in pregnancy such as hyperemesis (where her morning sickness is so severe she requires admission to hospital to manage this), an increased risk of miscarriages, and increased risks of diabetes and life-threatening high blood pressures.

"She is at risk after birth of having extensive bleeding from the uterus (womb) not being able to contract well," Dr Oosthuizen explains. 

The babies are most at risk of being born premature, and as these babies were delivered very early, they will likely spend many weeks in the intensive care. Preterm babies are at risk of eye problems, brain development problems, feeding and gut problems, infections, lung and heart problems. 

"This is why we actively try to avoid multiple pregnancies as our goal in fertility treatment is to assist with bringing a healthy child into this world," Dr Oosthuizen says.

Also read: 11 Fascinating facts about conception

The most children to survive a single birth

The current Guinness World Record for the most children to survive a single birth is held by American Nadya Suleman who gave birth to eight babies in 2009.

Famously dubbed "Octomom", Nadya's six boys and two girls were conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF). At the time of their birth, the Suleman octuplets were the second set of octuplets born alive and the only set to survive their first week of life. 

Prior to the birth of her octuplets, Nadya had 6 children who were also conceived via IVF. 

This past May, Malian, Halima Cissé had given birth to nine babies which includes five daughters, Adama, Fatouma, Hawa, Kadidia and Oumou as well as four sons Bah, Elhadji, Mohamed and Oumar. 

Cissé was reported to have been 30 weeks pregnant when her nonuplets were delivered via C-section. But, while born healthy, Cissé's babies still have a way to go before they can be sent home. 

Currently, the babies are being kept in incubators and carefully monitored at the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca, Morocco, where they were born. 

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