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Doctor: Octuplets' mom 'an amazing patient'

  • Story Highlights
  • Mom did whatever it took to prolong the babies' gestation, Dr. Karen Maples says
  • With so many arms and legs in ultrasounds, doctors had counted only seven babies
  • The six boys and two girls are all breathing on their own, Maples says
  • Babies could stay in hospital for as long as 12 weeks, doctor says
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- In a case that's captured international attention, Nadia Suleman, the mother of six children, gave birth to octuplets in Bellflower, California.

Dr. Karen Maples says the mother of the octuplets is pleased with the babies' progress.

Dr. Karen Maples says the mother of the octuplets is pleased with the babies' progress.

Dr. Karen Maples, the leader of a team of doctors who delivered the babies, appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday night to discuss last week's delivery and give an update on the 33-year-old mother.

Maples is chief of service, obstetrics and gynecology, at Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower Medical Center.

Larry King: When this case came in, what did you make of it?

Dr. Karen Maples: Well, I started taking care of the mother when I admitted her at 23 weeks' gestation. She had already been seen in our prenatal clinic, and she came to our Kaiser Bellflower when she was in her first trimester. She was well on her way in her pregnancy at 23 weeks. And I hospitalized her at that point.

King: How well did she do carrying?

Maples: She was an amazing patient. She did whatever it took to keep the babies in as long as possible. And she held on in the pregnancy until she was 30½ weeks of gestation.

King: Did you wonder why someone with six kids -- three sets of twins -- would have eight more children?

Maples: Actually, she has six kids with one set of twins. But at that point in time, my focus was on taking care of the patient and dealing with the seven babies that we thought were onboard at that time.

King: So you aren't questioning why she did this ... ?

Maples: No.

King: What's the biggest problem you face in multiple births?

Maples: The biggest risk is premature labor -- delivery early. And with that comes a risk of babies having immature lungs, a risk of complications with their intestines unable to grow. So that was the major risk. We wanted to try to prolong the pregnancy as long as possible.

King: Kaiser Permanente was not the source of the in vitro [fertilization], right?

Maples: No, we are not. The patient was already pregnant when she started receiving care at Kaiser. We -- it's not a Kaiser-covered benefit, in vitro fertilization. So she sought that treatment elsewhere.

King: Why did you think seven and be surprised by eight?

Maples: We did ultrasounds. And actually she had several ultrasounds through the pregnancy. But certainly as this pregnancy progressed, it was very difficult. When you're doing an ultrasound, you're looking at a three-dimensional space, and you're getting images with a two-dimensional screen. So it's difficult sometimes to see all of the spines and the skulls and the bones that are on the arms and legs.

And we felt, at that point, we had seven.

King: What did they weigh?

Maples: The babies, when they were delivered, weighed between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds and 4 ounces.

King: How are they doing?

Maples: They are doing remarkably well. We are so pleased with the team from the neonatology staff. They are currently all breathing on their own. They are eating donated breast milk, and they're also getting intravenous nutritional supplementation.

The risk for a brain -- bleeding inside the brain -- has decreased now that they're a week old. So they're doing, actually, better than expected, with 31-week singleton babies. We're very pleased.

King: Would you say they're all going to live?

Maples: At this point, in time, we are really optimistic and hopeful. The most critical time was between three and seven days. And currently, right now, they're doing quite well.

King: How long will they have to stay in the hospital?

Maples: It's variable, you know, because each -- now they're individual, the patients, at this point, in the neonatal intensive care unit. It can be seven weeks. It could be as long as 12 weeks. But, you know, the neonatologist, [Mandhir] Gupta, and his team, will make the decision for discharge of the babies.

King: How is the mother doing?

Maples: She's doing quite well, recovering from the Caesarean section. It was a planned delivery one week ago. And she is doing well -- walking -- now able to walk about on her own, you know, is doing -- making, you know, great progress.

King: What's her -- what's her attitude?

Maples: She is very happy. She's very pleased with the progress of the babies and she's very optimistic for -- of the babies in the long term.

King: Does she know the uproar this has caused? Video Watch a report on the mother's future »

Maples: We have spoken to her about it. But she does have her family to support. And so she's helping -- getting help that way.

King: But she does know that like everybody in the world is talking about this?

Maples: That's true. Yes.

King: Did she need special care in pregnancy?

Maples: She was under our high-risk pregnancy service. The most care that she got was at 23 weeks, and we hospitalized for her. It was very important that we keep her at bed rest and try to reduce the risk of preterm delivery. And she -- we were able to do that.

King: A couple of other things. Do we know that the eight embryos were implanted or did some split?

Maples: At this point, I can't tell you anything about the in vitro fertilization. She's asked that we keep that private.

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King: How many boys? how many girls?

Maples: There are six boys and two girls.

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