A teacher is pregnant with a record-breaking 12 babies, it has been claimed. The unnamed Tunisian woman, who is in her 30s, is reportedly expecting six boys and six girls. She is said to have turned to fertility treatment after suffering two miscarriages in two years. But British fertility experts said that although it was possible to conceive 12 babies, such a pregnancy was fraught with risk. There was less than a one in 100 chance of even a single baby surviving, said one. But the woman claims to be in good health.
‘All I want to do is be able to hug my babies and show them all my love,’ she told hospital workers in the town of Gafsa, about 250 miles south of the capital Tunis. ‘This is an absolute miracle, and we all feel blessed after struggling so hard to have children.’
Her husband, named only as Marwan, who teaches at the same school in Tunisia, told the Assabah newspaper: ‘In the beginning, we thought that my wife would give birth to twins, but more foetuses were discovered. ‘Our joy was increased with the growing number. The medical team told us that my wife would give birth naturally.’
But British experts said that a natural birth would be impossible and warned that the strain of carrying 12 babies could lead to labour at 20 weeks – just halfway through pregnancy. It is unclear what stage the pregnancy is at, but ultrasound scans can work out a baby’s sex only after about 16 weeks, so it is likely she is already nearing the critical stage.
Peter Bowen-Simpkins, a fellow of Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘It is certainly possible to carry 12 babies but not for long. ‘The problem is the capacity of the uterus. ‘This woman is going to be enormous by 20 weeks. And when the uterus goes into labour there is nothing you can do about it. 'The youngest that babies have survived is at 22 to 23 weeks. They need very intensive nursing and the majority have permanent neurological damage. ‘You’d need a very good intensive paediatric unit to cope with this. We couldn’t do it in this country, we don’t have a unit with 12 intensive care cots. ‘I don’t like to dampen her enthusiasm but the chances are she will deliver at 20 weeks. 'I wouldn’t even give her a one in 100 chance of even one surviving. It’s frightening.’
In California in January of this year, a single mother of six defied doctors’ predictions when she gave birth to another eight healthy babies. The six boys and two girls were born to Nadya Suleman, dubbed Octomom, through IVF treatment. Others have not been so lucky. A 23-year-old Greek Cypriot who became pregnant with a then record 11 babies in 1996 had to abort nine to save the lives of two. In the same year a British woman, Mandy Allwood, 32, became pregnant with octuplets after taking fertility drugs. She ignored medical advice to abort some and lost all after they were born at just 22 weeks. Fertility doctors say it is unlikely that an IVF doctor would have agreed to implant the Tunisian woman with 12 embryos. Instead, the bumper pregnancy is likely to be the result of fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries.