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1968: Birth of sextuplets stuns Britain
A woman has given birth to six babies in what is being hailed as the first recorded case of live sextuplets in Britain.

Sheila Thorns from Birmingham underwent a Caesarean section early this morning during which six children - four boys and two girls - were delivered.

Mrs Thorns gave birth two months prematurely - on her 30th birthday.

All the babies were placed in incubators after being delivered but one - a girl - died shortly afterwards while being given a blood transfusion.

Twenty eight medical staff from Birmingham Maternity Hospital were present at the delivery and the five surviving babies - Ian, Roger, Lynne, Julie and Susan - are now being cared for by a specialist team.

Doctors say around one birth in 3,000 million will result in sextuplets.

However, those odds were reduced for Mrs Thorns due to the fertility treatment she had been undergoing.

We have wanted children all our married life
Barry Thorns, sextuplet's father
Her husband, Barry, said the couple had been aware of the possibility of having more than one baby.

Mr Thorns said: "We were expecting this multiple birth but we were stunned when we were first told that Sheila was likely to have five or six babies."

"We have wanted children all our married life," he added.

Over the past two years Mrs Thorns has been treated with gonadotrophin which contains two hormones known as FSH and LH.

The consultant treating her, Dr Cooke, said Mrs Thorns and several other women were unable to conceive until the proportion of LH was increased but that had resulted in a series of multiple pregnancies.

"We have had one set of triplets recently, and we know of some more who have not yet been born. I think we are going to have some more yet," he said.

But Dr Cooke believed the medical profession had learnt a lot about the effects of fertility drugs from those cases: "I think there is a real possibility that one day we shall be in a position to let a patient choose how many children she will have," he said.

Before 1938 multiple births were registered as separate events but it is believed around 18 sets of sextuplets have been born in the UK this century though it is unknown how many of them survived.

However, the anxiety is not yet over for the Thorns who have been warned by an obstetrician that more of the babies may yet die.

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One of the surviving sextuplets in an incubator
The surviving babies are in intensive care

Hospital team spend their first day with sextuplets

In Context
Three of the Thorns sextuplets survived.

The numbers of twins, triplets and other multiple births have soared in the years since fertility and IVF treatment became widely available.

The first case in Britain of a set of sextuplets surviving came with the births of Jenny, Ruth, Lucy, Kate, Hannah and Sarah Walton in 1983.

In November 1997 the world's first recorded case of surviving septuplets occurred when three boys and four girls were born to a couple in the United States.

In 1996 Mandy Allwood, a British woman on fertility treatment, gave birth to eight children - all died soon after delivery.

Since then births of octuplets have occurred in the US- when seven survived - and Italy - when six children survived.

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