Having 5 Babies: The Challenge of Pregnancy With Quintuplets

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Always a step ahead, Carmen Matthews, who gave birth on Sept. 6, is waiting for just one more baby to leave the NICU before she and her family can go home to North Carolina.

"I'm definitely glad that we did what we did," Matthews said. "We couldn't have asked for better outcomes. It was a lot of sacrifice for all of us, but it was totally worth it."

As Matthews spoke into the phone, a few of her new babies cooed in the background.

Elliott said having a plan and keeping a positive attitude plays an important role in his patients' outcomes. For the Ferraros and the Matthews, it was a comfort to have each other.

"I think it helped both of these families to have somebody else going through the same thing, same fears, same questions," Elliot said. "It was special. It just doesn't happen."

Elliott said he's able to get his patients to carry their high risk pregnancies between four and six weeks longer than average because he uses magnesium sulfate to prolong pregnancies longer than most doctors. Once he puts the mother on the drug, she's often uncomfortable -- with chest pain, muscle weakness, blurred vision and headaches -- but those symptoms usually go away after about three days, and the medication can extend the gestation period for months.

"Most people don't know that because they're afraid to go three to four days," he said. "If you don't know how to treat it in an aggressive way, you're going to fail."

Although the babies are doing well, Dr. James Goldfarb, who directs the University Hospital's fertility center in Cleveland, said having more than one baby as a result of fertility treatments is something to be avoided because of the associated health risks. He said fertility specialists' goals should not just be to get their patients pregnant; it should be to help them have healthy families. He said even triplets are 20 times more likely to be born with cerebral palsy than single babies.

Goldfarb said doctors and patients need to be conservative about administering fertility shots. He recommended that they implant only one embryo at a time. He said doctors also need to be mindful that some patients can't reduce their number of embryos for moral or religious reasons.

"Patients come to us desperate t get pregnant, and the last thing they're concerned about is being too pregnant," Goldfarb said.

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