Can the California woman who gave birth to octuplets this week afford to care for them? It's a question being raised anew today with the discovery of court documents showing that the woman's mother, with whom she shares a home, filed for bankruptcy last year.
Neighbors told ABC News that the octuplets' mother is single, in her 30s and already has six other children. She lives with her mother, Angela Victoria Suleman, who, according to public records, filed for bankruptcy in March 2008. The family lives in a three-bedroom home in suburban Los Angeles.
As of March, Suleman's husband, apparently the octuplets' grandfather, was working in Iraq, according to the bankruptcy filing. The couple's combined monthly income was listed as roughly $8,740, but the filing indicated that Suleman expected their income would rise from her husband's employment. It said that he would earn $100,000 a year. The document did not specify Suleman's husband's occupation, but Suleman told the Los Angeles Times that her husband was a contractor.
Suleman told the newspaper that her daughter had had fertility treatment but never expected the treatment would result in eight babies.
She said that raising 14 children "was going to be difficult."
No matter what your income, giving birth and caring for octuplets is an expensive proposition. The infants' delivery was performed by a team of 46 doctors, nurses and surgical assistants stationed in four delivery rooms at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in Bellflower, Calif., and it likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"You can think of it as an eightfold increase on a singleton birth," said Steven M. Donn, director of the Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. "By comparison, the mother's care will probably be a bargain."
Costs for the average delivery of a full-term pregnancy range from $9,000 to $25,000, depending on whether the baby is delivered by Caesarean section or vaginally. Eight times $25,000 is a whopping $200,000.
"For reasons we don't completely understand, risks with multifetal deliveries are greater than [normal births]," Donn said.
The medical costs for babies born preterm, like the California octuplets, which were born nine weeks premature, are also above average.
"The real significant costs come on the pediatric side, particularly when it comes to neonatal intensive care," said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a maternal-fetal specialist at Duke University Medical Center.
A full-term pregnancy lasts from 38 to 42 weeks, according to the National Institutes of Health, and Swamy estimated for babies born at 30 weeks the hospital stay could be "anywhere from six weeks to six months."
For an infant stay in a neonatal intensive care unit, costs can add up to "a few thousand a day," she said.
"So we are looking at probably several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the family. If it is $100,000 per baby, for example, then it would be $800,000 for all eight," Swamy said.