A Malian woman successfully gave birth to nine babies on Tuesday in Casablanca after Mali's government flew her to Morocco to receive specialist care.
Halima Cissé, 25, gave birth to five girls and four boys via cesarean section at a private clinic in Morocco's western port city of Casablanca on May 4. A team of ten doctors and 25 paramedics assisted in the delivery. Cissé's doctors had detected just seven babies during ultrasounds prior to the multiple births.
The nonuplets born Tuesday weighed between 1.1 lbs and 2.2 lbs and will be kept in incubators to support their development "for two to three months," Mali Health Minister Fanta Siby said in a statement.
Cissé's babies were delivered prematurely at 30 weeks, which is common for multiple-birth deliveries. Babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature. They are at increased risk of developing various health problems such as respiratory distress and infections due to having underdeveloped organs and weak immune systems.
Cissé arrived in Casablanca on March 30 after spending two weeks in a hospital in Mali's capital, Bamako. Malian government officials reached out to the Moroccan government for assistance last month after Malian doctors expressed concern for Cissé's physical welfare and the chances of her babies' survival in the poor West African state, according to the BBC. Morocco obliged Mali's request for assistance, arranging for her to fly to Casablanca and be placed in the care of gynecologist Youssef Alaoui, the medical director of the Ain Borja clinic.
Cissé was 25 weeks pregnant when admitted to Ain Borja clinic, but Dr. Alaoui and his team "managed to extend her term to 30 weeks," the medical director said Wednesday.
"Such a case of multiple births is extremely rare, it's exceptional," Dr. Alaoui told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on May 5, adding that Cissé is "doing well."
Mali Health Minister Siby on Wednesday offered her congratulations to "the medical teams of Mali and Morocco, whose professionalism is at the origin of the happy outcome of this pregnancy."
"My wife and the babies are doing well," Cissé's husband, Adjudant Kader Arby, who stayed behind in Mali along with the couple's older daughter, told BBC Afrique on May 5.
"Everybody called me! Everybody called! The Malian authorities called expressing their joy. I thank them … Even the [Malian] president called me," he said.
"Two sets of nonuplets have previously been recorded — one born to a woman in Australia in 1971 and another to a woman in Malaysia in 1999 — but none of the babies survived more than a few days," the BBC noted on Wednesday.
U.S. citizen Nadya Suleman, also known as "Octomom," currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most children delivered in a single birth to survive after she gave birth to eight babies via cesarean section in 2009. Suleman became pregnant with octuplets at age 33 after undergoing in vitro fertilization, which increases the chances of multiple births. It remains unknown if Cissé received fertility treatments to become pregnant with her nonuplets. Gynecologist Bill Kalumi, of Kenya's Kenyatta National Hospital, told the BBC on Wednesday it is virtually impossible for a woman to become pregnant with eight or nine babies at once naturally.
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