Video: How many is too many?

updated 1/29/2009 8:52:31 AM ET 2009-01-29T13:52:31

Doctors are upbeat about the condition of the octuplets born Monday night to a woman in Southern California.

“They’re doing amazingly well,” said Socorro Serrano, spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Medical Center, where the babies were born.

Three of the babies are still receiving oxygen, but they are inhaling and exhaling on their own. The hospital says all the newborns are expected to have their oxygen tubes removed soon.

All the babies are being given total parental nutrition feedings, which deliver fluid, electrolytes, calories, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fats. Such intravenous supplements are routine for premature babies.

The mother, whose identity remains a secret, had not yet been able to hold any of the delicate babies — six boys and two girls — who were born weighing between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces. However, she was able to see them in their incubators Tuesday night.

Five of the babies have begun feedings on donated breast milk through tubes. The three others were expected to begin feeding later Wednesday.

The mother has begun pumping breast milk in anticipation of eight hungry babies, said Serrano.

Doctors were surprised by the birth of the eighth baby, because they were only anticipating seven, said Dr. Harold Henry, one of 46 staff members who delivered the babies by Caesarean section.

Details about how the octuplets were conceived have not been released, but doctors not involved in the delivery believe the mother was likely on fertility treatment.

Dr. Daniel Mishell, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, recommends carefully monitoring pregnancies involving fertility drugs by ultrasound.

Multiple births can be dangerous for babies and their mother, and in some cases, may result in lasting health problems. However, in cases where a woman insists on having multiple births, there’s a limit to a doctor’s role.

“You can’t mandate a reduction of pregnancies,” Mishell said. “You can advise them, but you can’t mandate them.”

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