IMAGE: Dr. Liz Whynot (L) and Dr. Brian Lupton
Andy Clark  /  Reuters
Dr. Liz Whynot (L) and Dr. Brian Lupton talk at a news conference at the B.C. Women's Hospital to discuss the birth and care of sextuplets in Vancouver, British Columbia.
updated 1/9/2007 3:35:35 PM ET 2007-01-09T20:35:35

A woman has given birth to what is believed to be Canada’s first set of sextuplets, and the infants were in listed in fair condition, hospital officials said.

The newborns — each weighing only 1 pound, 6 ounces to 1 pound, 12 ounces and not much bigger than an outstretched hand — were delivered over the weekend at B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Center.

Citing privacy concerns, hospital officials declined to identify the family or give other details about the births, saying only that they were delivered almost three months premature.

“The babies are in fair condition, which means their vital signs are stable and within normal limits,” said Dr. Liz Whynot, the hospital’s president. She said the parents, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, are “feeling overwhelmed” and “are focusing all their energy on their new family.”

The first infant was born about 8:30 p.m. Saturday and the others were born early Sunday, she said.

Hospital officials, contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday, declined to provide the sex of the infants or other details.

The babies are considered on the borderline of viability and have a roughly 80 percent chance of surviving to leave the hospital, said Dr. Brian Lupton, head of neonatal intensive care at the hospital.

Such an early delivery means all the baby’s organs are immature and their underdeveloped immune systems make them more vulnerable to infection. They also face potential neurological and development deficiencies, vision and hearing problems.

“They’re certainly in the best possible hands, that’s the comfort. But they certainly have a long road ahead of them,” said Dr. Timothy Rowe, an obstetrician who heads the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of British Columbia. Rowe said naturally conceived sextuplets occur only once in several billion births.

Hospital officials declined to say whether the parents used fertility drugs.

The Dionne quintuplets were Canada’s most famous multiple birth. The five identical sisters, born in a small Ontario town in 1934, were hailed as a medical miracle and, at the time, were the only known quintuplets to survive more than a few days.

Their case, however, quickly turned tragic as the Ontario provincial government, which deemed their parents unfit, put them in a specially built hospital where they became a moneymaking tourist attraction during the Depression. The three surviving quints eventually sued the provincial government and received a $2.8 million settlement.

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