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Septuplet mother sees her children

Drs. Fauzia, left, and Winkel cautioned that
Drs. Fauzia, left, and Winkel cautioned that "we are not out of the woods."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The mother of the world's newest septuplets saw and touched her newborn children for the first time of Friday, doctors at Washigton's Georgetown University Hospital said.

"She was clearly thrilled. She touched the babies and spent some time with them," said hospital spokeswoman Karen Alcorn.

The babies are listed in critical condition. They are expected to survive, doctors said.

A team of 25 medical professionals helped deliver the tiny but healthy babies by Caesarean section Thursday night.

Five boys and two girls, all between 2 and 2.5 pounds and measuring thirteen inches in length, were delivered between 11:25 and 11:28 p.m. with the help of five doctors, three anesthesiologists and dozens of nurses and other support staff at the hospital.

The infants are in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

 Order of arrival

Baby A -- boy, 2.16 pounds

Baby B -- girl, 2 pounds
(smallest didn't need ventilator)

Baby C -- boy, 2.07 pounds

Baby D -- girl, 2.03 pounds
(Needed blood pressure medication)

Baby E -- boy, 2.42 pounds

Baby F -- boy, 2.23 pounds

Baby G -- boy, 2.2 pounds

Source: Georgetown Medical Center

The mother, who has requested anonymity, is in good condition.

All but one of the infants are on support ventilators, but Dr. Siva Subramanian told a news conference Friday they are breathing on their own and the ventilator settings are slowly coming down.

"While the mom is doing great, I don't think we can say we're out of the woods yet," said Subramanian.

A team of doctors, nurses and specialists in premature infants is assigned to each baby.

Dr. Craig Winkel said all the babies scored between seven and nine on the 10-point Apgar scale -- a means of measuring the health of newborns minutes after birth. Seven to 10 is considered normal.

The mother was seven months pregnant when she gave birth. She was admitted to the hospital in mid-June after her community physician, Dr. Mutahar Fauzia, referred her to the hospital.

Fauzia said the woman underwent ovulation induction to increase the number of eggs she was producing. The treatment consists of oral medicine or injections. The woman's doctors would not disclose which type of treatment she underwent.

The woman was informed at seven weeks' gestation that she was carrying seven embryos. The parents decided, at that time, to continue with the pregnancy.

Doctors called 'angels'

When asked if the mother had considered aborting some of the babies to give the others a better survival chance, Fauzia said the woman is a Muslim and "did not believe in the taking [of the] lives of the babies."

No other details were disclosed about the family.

Fauzia, who became emotional during a press conference Friday, said she was thankful to the team of Georgetown physicians, whom she called "angels."

"I have been very lucky that the ending is going to be, God willing, good," she said.

The doctors had been preparing for the delivery for weeks.

"We have had several dry runs to make sure everybody [was] available," Subramanian said. "As planned, it did happen. Everybody responded on time. We were all ready."

The father, who was present in the delivery room, was concerned about the health of his wife during delivery, said Dr. Helaine Landy.

"He didn't want to go to NICU before knowing his wife was OK," Landy said. But after the babies were born, he broke out in a broad smile, another physician said. The babies are expected to stay in the hospital for seven to nine weeks.

Not all fertility experts celebrate

The birth of the septuplets was not greeted with cheers by some in the fertility field who said the goal should be to have more normal births.

"I think that high-order multiple births are as much a failure of treatment as no pregnancy is," said Eric Widra of Shady Grove Fertility Center, a Washington-area clinic.

"Most multiple births of this magnitude don't make it to survival," he said, and in those that do, "the children often have long-standing handicaps."

"So to celebrate this is fine for the doctors who have saved this pregnancy. To celebrate this as a success of fertility treatment is not appropriate," he said.

Georgetown University Hospital was also the site of the birth of sextuplets -- six children -- to Jacqueline Thompson on May 8, 1997. She and her husband, Linden, were the first African-American couple to give birth to sextuplets, all of whom survived.

The Thompsons also claim to have broken several other records, according to the family's Web site, including the first natural sextuplet pregnancy and the longest sextuplet pregnancy in the United States -- more than seven months.

The birth of the Thompson sextuplets drew far less attention than the November 1997 birth of septuplets to an Iowa couple, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey.

The McCaugheys received an outpouring of company endorsements and donations that helped pay for the cost of raising seven children.

In 1985, Patti Frustaci was the first woman in the United States to give birth to septuplets. The Frustaci septuplets -- four boys and three girls -- were born by Caesarean section 12 weeks premature in Orange, California. One girl, Christina, was stillborn.

Over the next 19 days, three more of the infants -- David, James and Bonnie -- died of hyaline membrane disease, a condition in which the lungs collapse after each breath.

The surviving infants -- Richard, Patricia and Stephen -- were found to have cerebral palsy at age 2. A year later, the children also were diagnosed as mentally retarded.

Sam and Patti Frustaci sued the fertility clinic and the physician who treated the mother with Pergonal, the same drug used by Bobbi McCaughey.

When asked why the family in the latest births has chosen anonymity, Dr. Richard Goldberg said, "At this point and time, the family wants to remain anonymous. That may change at some other point down the road, [but] we're going to protect their confidentiality."

• Georgetown University Hospital

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