(GUARDIAN UK) – A Tunisian woman in her 30s is expecting 12 babies in what her family described as an amazing miracle, but doctors have warned there is only a tiny chance that any of them will survive.
The unnamed woman, an Arabic language teacher who has had two miscarriages since her marriage to a colleague in 2007, said that she was feeling fine and looking forward to hugging her six boys and six girls.
“All I want to do is to 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 Tunis.
“In the beginning, we thought that my wife would give birth to twins, but more foetuses were discovered. Our joy increased with the growing number. The medical team told us that my wife would give birth naturally,” said Marwan, the woman’s husband.
Fertility experts warned of the high risks, however, with the possibility that the strain of carrying so many babies could lead to her going into labour after just 20 weeks, around halfway through a normal pregnancy and four weeks less than the UK’s legal limit for abortion.
“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,” Peter Bowen-Simpkins, a fellow at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists told the Daily Mail.
Doctors are monitoring the woman and the Tunisian health authorities have already said they will offer various forms of assistance to both the mother and her family, the Assabah daily newspaper reported.
In January, Nadya Suleman, an unemployed single mother from California, gave birth to the world’s longest-surviving octuplets. But world astonishment turned to unease when it emerged that Octomom, as she was called, had conceived all her 14 children through in vitro fertilisation.
The record for multiple pregnancies was set in 1996, when a 23-year-old Greek Cypriot woman was pregnant with 11 babies. But nine had to be aborted to save the lives of two.