Octuplets are a set of eight offspring born at one birth. An individual that is part of such a set is called a octuplet.
Types of Octuplets
Octuplets can be fraternal (multizygotic), identical (monozygotic) or a combination of both. Multizygotic Octuplets occur from eight 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 octuplets, although none have been documented. It is also possible for octuplets to include one or more sets of monozygotic twins among the six individuals. Octuplets can be all male, all female, or a combination of both. Monozygotic multiples will always be of the same gender.
Facts About Multiples records 19 sets of octuplets in the world as of January 2009, however only five of those sets include any living survivors, and only one set includes eight survivors. Very few incidences of spontaneous conception of octuplets have been reported; nearly all of the extreme multiple births in the last 30 years were the result of fertility enhancements such as ovulation-stimulating drugs.
Octuplets 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 Chukwu babies born in 1998.
Pregnancy with Octuplets
Because octuplets are so rare, information is scarce as to the average gestation or other details of pregnancy. However, all incidences of octuplets have been born prematurely, before the 40-week gestational period for a full-term singleton baby. In January, 2009, the California octuplets were born a little past 30 weeks. By contrast, the Chukwu babies born in 1998 were delivered at only twenty-seven weeks. As in a pregnancy with five or six babies (quintuplets or sextuplets), a mother may gain 50-100 pounds, depending on how long she is able to carry the babies.
A cesarean delivery is necessitated in the event of an octuplet pregnancy. Because the babies are born prematurely, they are quite small. The largest know size for an octuplet was one of the babies born in California in 2009, weighing 3 lbs. 4 oz. None of the Chukwu babies weighed more than two pounds.
Interesting Facts About Octuplets
Other higher order mltiples have been widely followed in the media, such as the Dilley "Six Pack" sextuplets 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. While great media attention was focused on the birth of octuplets in January 2009, details about the family have remained relatively private. In addition, the Chukwu/Udobi family from Houston has shunned the spotlight for the most part. Many parents of octuplets 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. In 2009, doctors thought that the mother was pregnant with septuplets, and were surprised by an eighth baby in the delivery room.
Support Groups for Families with Octuplets
Because of the rarity of octuplet births, there is no specific organization devoted to their support. However these organizations for parents of multiples are a good source of information and assistance:
MOST (Mothers of Supertwins: http://www.mostonline.org/index.htm (United States)
Multiple Births Canada's Higher Order Multiples Support Network: http://www.multiplebirthscanada.org/english/higherorder_info.php (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 Octuplets
While it may be possible for a company to custom craft an eight-seat stroller, at this time there is no specific product on the market. Four-, five- and six-seat strollers are available and could be used in combination to transport eight 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 Octuplets
For more information about octuplets, visit these sites on the web: