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DOCTORS continue to watch septuplets in critical condition

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Her first glimpse of her seven babies was in snapshots.

The children were tiny, each weighing just a couple of pounds. But the doctors called them beautiful.

The mother of the nation's latest septuplets, who asked hospital officials to keep her name a secret, stared at each photograph closely and clutched it to her breast.

``She was crying and holding the pictures and very, very happy,'' said nurse Dana Adamson, a member of the large medical team that helped deliver the five boys and two girls known to the world only as Baby A to Baby G.

Born by Caesarean section Thursday night within a three-minute period and hurried to incubators, the seven newborns remained in critical condition Saturday in the neonatal intensive care unit at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. Six were still on ventilators to help them breathe, while the smallest _ a girl _ breathed on her own.

They were expected to remain hospitalized for weeks, and a team of specialists is assigned to each infant.

``None of the problems for which we had prepared occurred,'' said Dr. Craig Winkel, chairman of Georgetown's obstetrics and gynecology department. But he cautioned that ``while mom is doing great, I'm not sure we can say we're out of the woods yet completely with the babies.''

The septuplets are expected to be in critical condition for the next few days, said Dr. Siva Subramanian, chief of premature infant care at Georgetown. He called them ``beautiful babies.''

Since the babies had to be rushed from the delivery room into the intensive care unit, the mother did not see them in person until Friday afternoon, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Alcorn.

The mother had received fertility treatments to increase ovulation, a common practice for women who have difficulty conceiving. She was reported in good condition Saturday.

Dr. Mutahar Fauzia, the woman's personal physician, said the parents felt ``fear and hope together'' when she told them they had conceived seven times.

Some women with multiple conceptions from fertility treatments choose to halt development of one or more of the fetuses in order to give the others a better chance of survival.

Fauzia said she advised the parents of their medical options and they chose to go forward with all seven.

``The patient is a Muslim and she did not believe in taking the life of the babies,'' said Fauzia.

The babies were born after 28 1/2 weeks. A full-term pregnancy is typically about 40 weeks.

While the smallest baby girl didn't require a ventilator, the other girl briefly needed a drug to strengthen her blood pressure.

Doctors said the babies weighed between 2 and 2.4 pounds. A healthy, mature birth weight is 5.5 pounds or more. The infants were between 13 and 14 inches long.

Winkel said the babies scored between 7 and 9 on the Apgar scale, a measure of newborn health that has a top score of 10.

``Seven is quite a good score for premature babies,'' said Dr. Edward E. Lawson, chief of premature infant care at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore.

National statistics show that more than 20 percent of babies born in sets of five or more do not survive their first year. But Lawson said the Washington seven probably have a much better chance because of their birth weights.

Winkle said the parents had named each of the children, but had asked that their identities and those of the babies be kept secret.

The mother was ordered to stay in bed at her home earlier this year, but eventually Fauzia decided to seek the help of Georgetown. The mother went into the hospital last month and, except for bathing and using the bathroom, was kept in bed for weeks.

The number of births of five or more babies in the United States has almost doubled since 1989 _ reaching 79 in 1998 _ largely because of fertility treatments that can cause multiple births.
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