Challenges of Expecting Quintuplets

baby in hospital
Quints can expect time in the NICU.

Finding out you are expecting quintuplets can come as quite a shock.

About Quintuplets

Quintuplets are five offspring born as the result of one pregnancy. They can be fraternal, identical, or a combination of both, although most quintuplets are a fraternal combination of boys and girls. Fully identical quintuplets of the same sex are so rare that they occur in only 1 in 15 million pregnancies.

In the vast majority of cases, quintuplets are the result of fertility treatments. The odds of conceiving quintuplets naturally is estimated to be about 1 in 60 million births.

Although you would assume that quintuplets would share the same birth date, this is not always the case. Sometimes, if there is a problem with one baby, the doctor may opt for a delayed interval delivery or iatrogenic asynchronous birth. This means that the quints could possibly be born days or even weeks apart.

Famous Quintuplets

Because they are so rare, quintuplets attract a lot of media attention. Some of the more notable quintuplet births include the Dionne, Keinast, and Wilkinson quintuplets.

Dionne Quintuplets

The Dionne quintuplets were born May 28, 1934, in Canada. They are noted as the first set of quintuplets to survive infancy. Even though their mother suspected she was carrying twins, no one considered the birth of quintuplets to be a possibility. The Dionne quintuplets were born two months prematurely and were wards of the King for most of their childhood. The government and those associated with the girls profited off the interest in their circumstances by making them a significant tourist attraction in Ontario.

Kienast Quintuplets

The Kienast quintuplets were born February 24, 1970, in New Jersey. They are noted as the first surviving set of American quintuplets conceived through fertility medication. Their parents had previously conceived two other children through the use of the drug Pergonal. They appeared on numerous talk shows and in many national magazines throughout their infancy. As adults, however, the quintuplets seldom seek publicity. Their last known interview was with Good Housekeeping in 2001.

Wilkinson Quintuplets

The Wilkinson quintuplets were born July 31, 2007, in Arizona to Jayson and Rachelle Wilkinson of Cedar Park, Texas. The quintuplets, three girls and two boys, have the distinction of the highest combined birth weight at 21 pounds. Rachelle needed to eat 5,000 calories per day during her pregnancy, but managed to stay at home until 30 weeks gestation.

The Challenges of Multiple Births

When you are expecting quints, you are considered to have a high risk pregnancy. Quintuplets, like other multiple births, have the potential to have a variety of complications.

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Conjoined twins

Although it is important to be informed about the risks your babies face, do not rely on online research as a substitute for a consultation with a doctor experienced in the delivery of multiple births. Every pregnancy is different, so it's hard to determine exactly what challenges your babies may face.

Support Groups for People Expecting Quintuplets

If you have questions about what it is like to be expecting quintuplets, you may wish to talk to other families who have been through the same experience. In the United States, Mothers of Supertwins (MOST) is a support group for families with higher order multiple births. In Canada, families can contact the Higher Order Multiples Support Network.

After the Babies Are Home

Once your babies are home, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make your first days as a family a bit less stressful:

  • Don't be afraid to accept offers of help. This includes people who want to help feed and play with your babies when they first come home as well as those who may offer to cook meals that can be frozen and reheated at a later date or assist with laundry and other basic household chores.
  • Use a large wall chart to keep track of when each child has been fed, changed, or put down for a nap. This is especially helpful when you have multiple people caring for the children together.
  • Although it is possible to order special strollers designed for transporting quints, many families find it easier to work with a combination of strollers designed for twins and triplets.
  • Take care to ensure that your babies are treated as individuals. If people are having trouble telling them apart, assign each child a special color to use as identification for clothing and toys. When you take pictures, get pictures of the children individually as well as in a group.
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Challenges of Expecting Quintuplets