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First Quintuplets Born in the UK for 5 Years

The first set of quintuplets in the UK for 5 years was born in the early hours on 10th November 2007 at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. 

‘Mummy’ of the baby girls is a 29 year old music teacher from Russia where she went against the medical advice of doctors who recommended selective termination.  She had taken a drug-based fertility treatment which makes multiple births more likely, and the couple refused to have abortions on religious grounds.

Specialist Mr. Lawrence Impey has had mother and babies under his team at the Oxford Fetal Medicine Unit since she sought the expert’s advice when doctors in her home town wanted her to abort some of the embryos.

The babies were born by caesarian delivery and there was a collection of five teams with more than 18 doctors and nurses on hand. The individual weight of the baby girls ranged from 1lb 13oz to 2lbs 2oz.

The last quintuplets to be born in the UK were delivered in a Belfast hospital in 2002.  They were at the time of their births the 12th set of natural quintuplets to be born worldwide since records began. 

UK’s first surviving quintuplets were born in 1969 to a couple from Essex. The mother had been given a fertility drug and all the babies were girls.

The Dionne Quintuplets

The very first set of known surviving quintuplets was born in Ontario, Canada in 1934.  They were the Dionne sisters.  Born two months premature to parents Elzire and Oliva Dionne, the girls were kept warm by the side of a wood stove.  Their combined total weight was less than 14 pounds and each baby could be held in the palm of a hand. 

The girls’ named Cecile, Marie, Annette, Emilie and Yvonne were taken away from their parents and became wards of the Canadian Government, by whom they were exploited and displayed in a public museum.

Their birth and survival was an international sensation, and their Canadian parents reaped a small fortune in sponsorships... though little good it did the five girls whom, in later life, complained of abuse and ill treatment and an unhappiness that, for most of them, lingered through much of their adult life.

The Diligenti Quintuplets

Parents Dionee and Franco Diligenti went as far as having their quintuplets delivered at home nine years later in 1943 because of the exploitation of the Dionne girls still very fresh in the public eye. The midwife was sworn to secretary and they registered the births of the three girls and two boys in different city offices throughout Buenos Ares, Argentina.

Since becoming adults the quintuplets each went their own separate ways and have remained out of the public eye. The two boys, Carlos Alberto and Franco, each went to school in Canada, and Maria Cristina went to live in Rome as a young adult, while Maria Fernanda and Maria Ester remained in Buenos Aires, marrying at ages 19 and 16, respectively. They all turned 64 on July 15 this year, and are the world's oldest living set of quintuplets.

Odds on Multiple Births

With advances in gynecological care, the chances of survival in multiple births have improved a hundredfold since the Dionne quintuplets were born in May 1934, and the odds against giving birth to identical quintuplets are in the vicinity of 55 million to one.

Multiple births are becoming increasingly frequent with the introduction of IVF treatment and fertility drugs.  Having said that, live births of such a large number of babies are extremely rare, with the risks to the mother judged to be "considerable". The majorities either miscarry or the babies are born so early they cannot survive.

Happily for this latest set of quintuplets it hopefully won’t be long before they are all healthy enough to leave hospital and return with their parents to their home in Russia where they can begin to enjoy their new, if not rather large family!