Sextuplets are a set of six offpsring born at one birth. An individual that is part of such a set is called a sextuplet.
Types of Sextuplets
Sextuplets can be fraternal (multizygotic), identical (monozygotic) or a combination of both. Multizygotic sextuplets occur from six unique egg/sperm combinations. Monozygotic multiples are the result of a fertilized egg that splits into two or more embryos. It is possible for the split to occur more than once, producing monozygotic triplets or potentially even a set of monozygotic sextuplets, although none have been documented. It is also possible for sextuplets to include one or more sets of monozygotic twins among the six individuals. Sextuplets can be all male, all female, or a combination of both. Monozygotic multiples will always be of the same gender.
Facts About Multiples records 179 sets of sextuplets in the world as of November 2007. The first surviving set of sextuplets was born in South Africa in 1974. The first surviving set of sextuplets from the United States were the Dilley sextuplets born in 1993, often referred to as the "Dilley Six Pack". Very few incidences of spontaneous conception of sextuplets have been reported; nearly all of the sextuplet births in the last 30 years were the result of fertility enhancements such as ovulation-stimulating drugs.
Sextuplets do not necessarily have to share the same birthdate. A delayed interval delivery (also known as iatrogenic asynchronous birth) may mean that individual babies are born days or even weeks apart, such as the Van Houten babies born in 2004.
Pregnancy with Sextuplets
The average gestation for a sextuplet pregnancy is 29.1 weeks, as opposed to 40 weeks for a full-term baby. During a pregnancy with sextuplets, a mother will gain 40-100 pounds. According to Mothers of Super Twins (MOST), the average weight gain is 55 pounds. Many mothers will require cervical cerclage, a surgical procedure in which the cervix is sewn shut to prevent preterm labor.
Nearly all sextuplet pregnancies result in a casearan delivery; only 3 cases of naturaly delivery of sextuplets are cited at Facts About Multiples. The average birthweight of a sextuplet is about 2 1/2 pounds, and nearly all sextuplets require medical care in a hospital NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for several weeks to months after birth.
Interesting Facts About Sextuplets
- Sextuplets have been widely followed in the media, from the Dilley "Six Pack" born in 1993 to the television series "Jon & Kate Plus 8" which documents the daily life of the Gosselin family who have both twins and sextuplets.
- Six sets of sextuplets were born in the United States in 2004.
- The Walton sextuplets of Great Britain were the first surviving set of all-female setxuplets; there are no known surviving sets of all male sextuplets.
- There were two sextuplet births on June 10, 2007: the Masches in Arizona and the Morrisons in Minnesota (only one of the Morrison babies survived.)
- Many parents of sextuplets are urged to consider selective reduction, reducing the number of viable fetuses to two in order to protect the health of the mother and give the babies the best chance of survival. Many parents of sextuplets have deep religious convictions that preclude them from seeking a reduction, and their faith sustains them through their extreme pregnancy.
Support Groups for Families with Sextuplets
Are you having sextuplets? It's important for families to seek support and advice from other families in the same situation. Here are some organizations that can offer resources and assistance:
MOST (Mothers of Supertwins: http://www.mostonline.org/index.htm (United States)
Multiple Births Canada's Higher Order Multiples Support Network: http://multiplebirthscanada.org/index.php/parents/support/higher-order-multiples-support-network (Canada)
The Triplet Connection: http://www.tripletconnection.org/ (United States)
National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC): http://www.nomotc.org/ (United States)
Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA): http://www.amba.org.au/ (Australia)
New Zealand Mutiple Birth Association (NZMBA): http://www.nzmba.info/ (New Zealand)
Twins and Multiple Birth Association (Tamba): http://www.tamba.org.uk/ (United Kingdom)
Strollers for Sextuplets
Six-seat strollers are available and are a convenient -- though pricy -- option for transporting six babies. Runabout crafts multi-seat strollers with hand-welded steel frames and manufactures a model with six seats. They are quite expensive, costing nearly $1500 new from the manufacturer, but may be available on the secondary market. (Triplet Connection also offers discounts for parents of multiples.)
Profiles of Families with Sextuplets
For more information about sextuplets, visit these sites on the web: