X buzzed with excitement on Monday because of a viral post about Anthonia Obianuju Madubugwu, a Nigerian woman who gave birth to nonuplets (nine babies).
The mother of the nonuplets gave birth in August 2023 as seen in a post on her Facebook page.
Amid the excitement that trailed the post on Monday were questions on whether the multiple births could be attributed to a miracle or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
IVF is an assisted reproductive technology often recommended when natural conception is difficult for reasons such as blocked fallopian tubes, low sperm count or other fertility issues.
Contrary to claims that this was the woman’s first time of giving birth in a 25-year-old marriage, FIJ found a YouTube video where she disclosed that she had previously given birth to twins.
The woman also revealed that she is from a family with a tendency for women to give birth to twins or triplets.
In the words of Madubugwu, “Multiple births are normal in my family and even in my husband’s family. My mother gave birth to triplets and twins. Even my big sister had twins, and my husband’s sister had twins too.
“This is not my first time of giving birth. My first pregnancy was twins, and this my second pregnancy is nine, making a total of 11 children. We did not know I was going to give birth to nine babies this time around.”
According to an article by Mayo Clinic, mature eggs are collected from ovaries and fertilised by sperm in a lab during IVF. A procedure is then done to place one or more of the fertilised eggs, called embryos, in a uterus (where babies develop).
The article also emphasised that undergoing IVF raises the likelihood of a multiple pregnancy. This means that the chances of having more than one baby at the same time are higher with IVF.
A Lagos-based gynaecologist, who does not want to be named, told FIJ that while Madubugwu could have indeed given birth without any assisted reproductive techniques like the IVF, the chance of multiple birth was three out of 100 women.
“The story of nonuplets is indeed a remarkable one, and it is true that the use of IVF and also fertility drugs have increased the rate of multiple births worldwide. But the odds of having a multiple birth is still three out 100 women.”
The doctor said it is very rare to have nine babies at once naturally and added that a plausible explanation might be that this Nigerian mother had both ovaries release multiple eggs or oocyte in one menstrual cycle.
“Normally, only one oocyte is released on ovulation in each monthly cycle,” he said.
“However assisted reproductive techniques/IVF has been responsible for the increase in multiple births over the years.”
Also, according to the doctor, family history and previous history of multiple births are factors for multiple gestation.
“The possibility of having more than one egg released from the ovary is actually genetic, and it is the way we explain how a woman can have non-identical twins or triplets and so on,” the doctor added.
The process of IVF does not necessarily lead to a substantially higher risk of multiple pregnancy. The answer is slightly more nuanced. Statistically, women who undergo IVF have multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets or higher-order multiples) at a higher rate than women who conceive naturally: According to statistics published in 2013, around 40 percent of all IVF pregnancies in the US resulted in multiple births, while there was a natural occurrence rate of only 2 percent.
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