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Gifts pour in for newest septuplets

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The world's newest septuplets are receiving gifts from people across the country, including clothes, toys, car seats and lots of diapers, a spokeswoman for Georgetown University Hospital said Saturday.

The spokeswoman said the two-day-old babies remain in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Five of them are still on ventilators, and two are on CPAP machines (Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine) to keep their airways open.

The mother, who has requested anonymity, is in good condition. She saw and touched her infants for the first time Friday.

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

Pregnancy and birth

The babies -- five boys and two girls -- were born Thursday night by Caesarian section and were whisked away to receive care from a team of 25 medical professionals. The infants all weighed between 2 and 2.5 pounds.

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

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."

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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