Count ‘Em: 80 Fingers and 80 Toes

BELLFLOWER, California — Eight babies born to a mother in Southern California — only the second live-born set of octuplets in the U.S. — were in stable condition and breathing on their own, doctors said Tuesday.

Dr. Mandhir Gupta, a neonatologist at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center, told ABC television that the babies "are doing actually very, very well."

Two of the newborns were initially put on ventilators, but their breathing tubes have been removed.

"Only three babies need some sort of oxygen through the nose right now but they are breathing on their own," Gupta said on "Good Morning America."

The six boys and two girls were born Monday, weighing between 1 pound, 8 ounces (0.67 kilograms) and 3 pounds, 4 ounces (1.47 kilograms). The mother's identity has not been released.

The world's first live octuplets were born in March 1967 in Mexico City, but all died within 14 hours, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The United States' first live octuplets were born in Houston in 1998, three months premature. The tiniest died a week after the birth. The surviving siblings turned 10 in December.

Their parents, Nkem Chukwu and Iyke Louis Udobi, told The Associated Press that they were delighted to hear another mother managed the same feat.

"It's a blessing, truly a blessing," Chukwu said. "We'll keep praying for them."

The parents of the California octuplets and their doctors had been expecting only seven babies. Just five minutes after the first birth, the unexpected eighth baby came out.

"It is quite easy to miss a baby when you're anticipating seven," said Dr. Harold Henry, chief of maternal and fetal medicine and one of 46 doctors, nurses and assistants who delivered the children by Caesarean section.

Doctors said they repeatedly conducted practice sessions in anticipation of the deliveries and were well prepared.

The babies — dubbed with the letters A-through-H — will probably remain in the hospital for at least two months and the mother should be released in a week, said Dr. Karen Maples, chief of the department of obstetrics and gynecology.

The most encouraging news was that the smallest — Baby E, a boy — no longer needed a ventilator. Gupta described him as "very feisty" on Tuesday.

The doctors cautioned that there is still the possibility that one or more of the octuplets may need a breathing tube again, and more dangers await when they begin feeding.

Maples said the mother was "very comfortable now. She is currently stable and we're observing her. She's also very excited about the health of her babies and she's extremely happy."

The mother checked into the hospital in her 23rd week of pregnancy and gave birth to the premature babies seven weeks later. Gupta said the woman was given spinal anesthesia and could hear the babies as they came out.

Dr. Richard Paulson, director of the fertility program at the University of Southern California, said the latest births likely resulted from the use of fertility drugs. Hospital officials would not say whether the mother used them.

Paulson, who had no role in the delivery, said the children could face serious health risks, including breathing problems and neurological damage. The mother also has an increased risk of hemorrhage, Paulson said.

"It's a risky decision to try to have all eight babies," Paulson said. "I would not recommend it under any circumstances, but I respect a parent's decision."

The Bellflower medical center, located about 17 miles (27 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, has an advanced neonatal unit.

The most infants previously delivered at the hospital was five, the Los Angeles Times said.

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