Do you remember Octomom, Nadya Suleman? I do. In fact, one of my college friends dressed up as Octomom for a Halloween party when I was in college. Both studying reproductive physiology, we thought the outfit and the eight corresponding babies she stuck to her costume were hilarious. Clearly my prefrontal cortex hadn’t developed fully yet.
College buffoonery aside, there is a woman in West Africa that has beaten Octomom’s record, giving birth to nine babies! After delivering at only 30 weeks’ gestation via c-section, it is reported that mom and her five girls and four boys are “doing well.” So well, in fact, that Halima Cissé, the mother, was transported to Morrocco from Mali for special care prior to the birth of her babies. So well, that Cissé that is in intensive care after hemorrhaging because the uterus is not meant to stretch large enough to house nine fetuses. So well, that the babies are in the intensive care nursery. So well, that the medical team consisted of over thirty staff members that “aided in the mother’s delivery and care for her nine children.” I hope you catch my sarcasm in “so well.” Is that what we have come to accept as wellness?
Journalists go on to report that “it’s not publicly known whether Cissé’s pregnancy resulted from fertility treatment.” Anyone else skeptical?
There is so much to unwrap here. First, are the health concerns for both mom and babies. It is well-known that carrying multiple fetuses lends itself to maternal and fetal risks. Those risks include cesarean delivery, hemorrhage, and pre-term delivery. It is also well documented that babies born prematurely have longer hospital stays and are more likely to struggle physically and developmentally, not only at birth, but throughout life. Here’s a taste of the risks to being born early: cerebral palsy, higher rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition), underdeveloped immune system (I thought we were in the midst of a pandemic?) vision, hearing, and dental problems, impaired learning or developmental delays, and chronic health conditions like asthma. Single babies born between 29-30 weeks usually weigh about three pounds. These babies, being multiples, weighed in at 1.1-2.2 pounds!
Secondly, what about the grappling concern about medical care and costs of medical care in poor West African countries? No doubt, it was expensive to transfer Ms. Cissé to Morocco, a bill that the government assisted with.
I hope this is not #BigFertility up to nasty tricks to gain wide-spread attention. I remain doubtful. Babies and mothers are not science experiments. Sure, maybe this is what Cissé wanted and maybe she gave consent. But, is this what the babies wanted; to come into this world early and possibly deal with life-long medical and physical complications and disabilities? Did anyone think about the consequences? I know #BigFertility didn’t. Like moths drawn to a flame, #BigFertility is drawn to publicity and money.
- Kallie Fell, MS, BSN, RN, started her professional career as a scientist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center utilizing a Master of Science degree in Animal Sciences with an emphasis on Reproductive Physiology and Molecular Biology from Purdue University. While assisting in the investigation of endometriosis and pre-term birth, Kallie simultaneously pursued a degree in nursing with hopes of working with women as a perinatal nurse. After meeting Jennifer at a conference, Kallie became interested in the work of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and started volunteering with the organization. It is obvious that Kallie is passionate about women’s health. She continues to work, as she has for the past 6 years, as a perinatal nurse and has worked with the CBC since 2018, first as a volunteer writer, then as our staff Research Associate, and now as the Executive Director. In 2021, Kallie co-directed the CBC’s newest documentary, Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender? Kallie also hosts the popular podcast Venus Rising and is the Program Director for the Paul Ramsey Institute.
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