Everything You Need to Know About Quintuplet Multiple Births

Newborn Quintuplets
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Quintuplets are a set of five babies born in one birth. A baby that is part of such a set is called a quintuplet and sometimes referred to as a "quint."

Though quintuplets and other higher-order multiple births (also known as super twins) are rare, the increased use of fertility drugs and assisted reproduction techniques has also brought an increase in these special types of pregnancies. Here's all you need to know about quintuplets.

Types of Quintuplets

Quintuplets can be fraternal (polyzygotic), identical (monozygotic), or a combination of both. Polyzygotic quintuplets occur from five unique egg/sperm combinations whereas monozygotic multiples are the result of one fertilized egg that splits into two or more embryos.

It is possible for a split to occur more than once, producing ​monozygotic triplets or even a rare set of monozygotic quintuplets. Fully monozygotic quintuplets are rare—so rare, in fact, that it is difficult to assess the odds of their occurrence. Quintuplets can be all male, all female, or a combination of both, but monozygotic quintuplets will always be of the same sex.

Most quintuplets are a combination of boys and girls; all male or all female quintuples are rare. The first set of all-female quintuplets were born in the United States in 2015.

Odds of Quintuplets

In 2017, the National Vital Statistics' U.S. report reported the birth of 49 quintuplets and higher-order multiples. Because this number includes the possible birth of sextuplets, septuplets, or more, it is not determined exactly how many of those births were specifically quintuplets.

The spontaneous conception of quintuplets is extremely rare; the average estimate is 1 in over 60 million births. Most recent quintuplet births are the result of assisted reproductive techniques such as fertility-enhancing drugs or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Pregnancy and Birth With Quintuplets

The average gestation for a quintuplet pregnancy is 29 weeks, as opposed to 40 weeks for a full-term baby. Many parents of multiples will gain more than 50 pounds during their pregnancy, and mothers may have to undergo a cervical cerclage, a surgical procedure in which the cervix is sewn shut to prevent preterm labor.

Nearly all quintuplet pregnancies result in cesarean (C-section) delivery and have an average birth weight of about 2 pounds, 12 ounces each. Most quintuplets receive medical care in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they reach their original birth date.

That said, quintuplets don't always 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.

The First Quintuplets

Perhaps the most famous set of quintuplets are the Dionne quintuplets born in Canada in 1934. They were the first documented set of all identical quintuplets to survive infancy. The girls—Annette, Émilie, Yvonne, Cécile, and Marie—attracted worldwide attention. They were removed from their parent's care and placed in the custody of a doctor, who displayed them as a tourist attraction.

Interesting Quintuplet Facts and Trivia

  • The Wilkinson quintuplets weighed more than 21 pounds combined (a new U.S. record) when they were born at about 34 weeks in 2007.
  • The heaviest quintuplet births on record, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was 25 pounds combined, attributed to two mothers, Liu Saulian (China, 1953) and Mrs. Kamalammal (India, 1956).
  • The first set of quintuplets born in the United States were reported to be the Kanouse quints in Watertown, Wis., in 1875. They were all boys and did not survive.
  • Baseball player Melvin Mora is a dad of quintuplets born in 2001 (three girls and two boys).
  • A 2004 television show, "Quintuplets," starred Andy Richter and Rebecca Creskoff as parents of teenage quints.
  • The 1993 novel, "Feather Crowns," is about a young Kentucky farm couple who gives birth to quintuplets.

Support Groups for Families

Are you having quintuplets? While often considered a blessing, having multiples comes with unique parenting challenges. It can be helpful for families to seek support and advice from other families in the same situation for support and advice. Here are some organizations that can offer resources and assistance:

  • Raising Multiples, a MOST (Mothers of Supertwins) community [United States]
  • Multiple Births, Canada's Higher Order Multiples Support Network [Canada]
  • Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) [Australia]
  • New Zealand Multiple Birth Association (NZMBA) [New Zealand]
  • Twins and Multiple Birth Association (Tamba) [United Kingdom]
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Article Sources
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