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Doctor optimistic about Iowa septuplets' progress

McCaughey family

All 7 are in serious condition

November 20, 1997
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EST (1715 GMT)

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- The prognosis for septuplets born Wednesday to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey remained guarded Thursday, with all seven babies listed in serious condition. But doctors described the infants' status as "excellent," given the circumstances.

"All seven babies are listed in serious condition, which is really an excellent condition report for babies less than 24 hours of age at 30 weeks gestation," said Dr. David Alexander, medical director at Blank Children's Hospital. "This is really wonderful news."


Alexander said all the babies are breathing on their own, although they have mechanical ventilators hooked up to provide assistance.

"The babies will be with us for some weeks ... probably through most of the month of January," Alexander said. "We are very optimistic that these babies will have relatively uneventful courses, but we'll take it one day at a time."

Their 29-year-old mother was resting comfortably, according to hospital officials.

Expectant mother faced incredible odds

The McCaugheys' fertility specialist, Dr. Katherine Hauser, said the success of the pregnancy did not mean that other women who conceived seven babies should take the same route.

CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore describes the problems premature infants face during their first few days of life.
icon 1 min. VXtreme video

"Carrying a pregnancy with seven babies carries risks to the babies and the mothers that are extreme," she warned.(icon AIFF or WAV sound) She said doctors were surprised when McCaughey conceived so many children.(icon AIFF or WAV sound)

The deeply religious parents -- who had rejected suggestions to abort some of the fetuses to give the others a better chance -- rejoiced with their families.

"I would ask that all believers across the world join us in praying for Bobbi and for the babies that their health will continue and only improve," grandfather Bob Hepworth said as he announced the birth. On Thursday, his wife, Peggy, shared his excitement about the news.

The infants' other grandmother said the new parents would receive lots of support.

"Everybody is excited to pitch in and help -- we're baby lovers, this family, so we're definitely up to the task. Kenny and Bobbi, of any couple that I could imagine, they are the ones that could do this," Valerie McCaughey said. "We know they can do it, and we're going to help."

Companies asked to build couple a bigger home

The children, delivered by cesarean section in six minutes Wednesday, ranged in weight from 2 pounds, 5 ounces to 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Only one, Joel Steven, born at 2 pounds, 15 ounces, was initially listed in critical condition.

Perinatologist Dr. Paula Mahone, a doctor at Iowa Methodist Medical Center who helped deliver the babies, said it was "a miracle" that McCaughey carried the children as long as she did.

"Bobbi's attitude has always been wonderful; she complied with bed rest from the very early gestational age, wanted to do everything she could to further this pregnancy," she said. (icon 416K/31 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The mother is a former seamstress who had taken the fertility drug Pergonal. The 27-year-old father is a billing clerk at a car dealer in the rural community of Carlisle. The couple already had one daughter, Mikayla, age 2.


They are receiving some assistance in providing for their suddenly large family: Proctor and Gamble is providing the family with a lifetime supply of Pampers. In one day, experts estimate the brothers and sisters will go through 84 diapers, 250 ounces of formula and 35 changes of clothing.

Perhaps even more helpful, Iowa's government is calling on companies across the state to donate materials, land and labor to build the family a larger house.

"I think we all know if you've seen the home where the McCaugheys live, it's not going to be big enough for all these children," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said.

"They have a critical need for a new home, and we believe that the people of Iowa and Iowa companies can and will donate the building of this new home."

The McCaughey septuplets are only the second set to be born alive. The first septuplets to live to delivery were born in September in Saudi Arabia. Six of them died, according to hospital officials there.


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