Facts and Statistics About Octuplets

octuplet babies wearing diapers

Pamela Prindle

Octuplets are a set of eight offspring born at one birth. An individual that is part of such a set is called an 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 eight individuals. Octuplets can be all male, all female, or a combination of both. Monozygotic multiples will always be of the same sex.

Statistics

Although eight sets of octuplet births have been recorded, only two sets had all eight babies survive birth, and only one set still has all eight members living.

Very few incidences of spontaneous conception of octuplets have been reported; nearly all of the higher-order multiple births since 1971 (when the first case was recorded) 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 Suleman octuplets were born at 31 weeks. By contrast, the Chukwu babies born in 1998 were delivered at only 25-27 weeks.

As with a pregnancy with five or six babies (quintuplets or sextuplets), a mother of multiples may gain significantly more weight than a singleton mother. Because higher order multiples are so rare, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) doesn't have specific weight guidelines for octuplets. ACOG does say that a mother of twins may have a gestational weight gain of over 50 pounds. The mother of the Suleman octuplets reportedly gained over 130 pounds during her pregnancy.

Cesarean delivery is necessitated in the event of an octuplet pregnancy. Because the babies are born prematurely, they are quite small. The largest known 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 multiples have been widely followed in the media, such as the Dilley "Six Pack" sextuplets born in 1993 or the television series Jon & Kate Plus 8, which documented the daily life of the Gosselin parents who have both twins and sextuplets.

Great media attention was focused on the birth of Suleman octuplets in January 2009, and the Sulemans have been in and out of the spotlight as years passed. In contrast, the Chukwu/Udobi family from Houston has shunned the spotlight for the most part.

In 2009, doctors in the Suleman case thought that the mother was pregnant with septuplets and were surprised by an eighth baby in the delivery room.

Support Groups for Parents of Multiples

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:

Strollers for Octuplets

Runabout crafts multi-seat strollers with hand-welded steel frames and manufactures a model with eight seats, primarily for schools and child care centers. They are quite expensive. Four-, five- and six-seat strollers are available and could be used in combination to transport eight babies.

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5 Sources
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  2. Raising Multiples. Sextuplet, Septuplet & Octuplet Fact Sheet. Updated 2015.

  3. Roman AS, Fishman S, Fox N, Klauser c, Saltzman D, Rebarber A. Maternal and neonatal outcomes after delayed-interval delivery of multifetal pregnancies. Am J Perinatol. 2011;28(2):91-96. doi:10.1055/s-0030-1262513

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  5. ACOG. Weight gain during pregnancy. Updated 2020.

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