Seven up! – Bobbi McCaughley successfully gave birth to seven babies, November 1997

Seven up! – Bobbi McCaughley successfully gave birth to seven babies, November 1997 – Brief Article

Chana Stiefel

Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey of Carlisle, Iowa, set medical history on its ear last November. Their seven newborns–four boys and three girls–are the first septuplets ever to be born alive in the U.S. Even their doctors were amazed. “As we delivered each baby and saw how vigorous they were, we were very, very happy,” says Dr. Paula Mahone, their obstetrician, or specialist in childbirth.

Each baby was small enough to fit in the palm of Dad’s hand. But their weights were robust considering their premature arrival. Kelsey, the smallest, weighed 1.05 kilograms (2 lbs, 5 oz). Kenneth, the largest, tipped the scales at 1.6 kg (3 lbs, 4 oz). Because their lungs weren’t fully developed, the babies were first hooked up to ventilators, machines to help them breathe. But within weeks all seven were breathing on their own.

How did one woman give birth to seven babies at once? The answer is a modern fertility feat. During a normal monthly menstrual cycle, a woman ovulates. That is, one of her two ovaries (egg-producing organs), releases one egg. If a male’s sperm doesn’t fertilize the egg, it is discharged during menstruation.

But some women, like Bobbi McCaughey (pronounced “McCoy”), don’t ovulate regularly. That makes it difficult to conceive a baby. So McCaughey opted to take a fertility drug called Metrodin, which worked only too well. The drug nudged not one, but seven eggs in her ovary to mature. All seven eggs were fertilized and traveled into the uterus, the organ where fetuses develop during pregnancy (see diagram).


In general, statistics for multiple births are grim: Most women pregnant with five or more fetuses miscarry and lose them all. Doctors stress that the human uterus isn’t designed to carry so many fetuses at once. Multiple babies who survive often suffer from lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and blindness. Some disabilities–like learning difficulties–may not show up until the kids reach school age.

No one can predict what challenges lie ahead for the McCaugheys. For now, they feel like they’re in seventh heaven.


The McCaughey family expects to change 49 diapers a day–an estimated 33,200 before toilet training!

Before fertility drugs, the odds of having septuplets were 464 billion to one!

Septuplets are so rare that the “spell check” on our computer doesn’t even recognize the word. Does yours?

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