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1969: Quintuplets born at London hospital

Britain's first live quintuplets born this century are making satisfactory progress at Queen Charlotte's maternity hospital in London.

Doctors say the next few days will be critical for the five girls born to Irene Hanson, aged 33, and her husband John, 35, from Rayleigh in Essex.

The five girls are: Joanne Lesley (2lb 7oz/ 1.1 kg at birth), Nicola Jane (2lb 13oz/ 1.3 kg), Julie Anne (2lb 15 oz/ 1.3 kg), Sarah Louise (3lb 7oz/ 1.5 kg) and Jacqueline Mary (2lb 6.5 oz/ 1.1 kg).

Nicola Jane has had some difficulty in breathing. However, her condition is said to have improved slightly.

"I would not say their chances were good yet"

Consultant George Wynn-Williams

All the girls are being cared for in separate cubicles in the special baby care nursery and they are all in incubators.

They are being fed hourly with breast milk from the hospital's milk bank, fed through a tube into their stomachs.

The babies were delivered by a team of 26 doctors and nurses, led by George Wynn-Williams a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist.

He said: "I would not say their chances were good yet, but they are certainly better than we might have expected."

The girls were born nine weeks premature and were delivered by caesarean section.

Mrs Hanson is in excellent condition and resting. She has not yet seen her daughters but is said to be "as happy as Larry".

Mr Hanson has seen his daughters through a glass partition and is said to be delighted.

His wife was given a fertility drug, gonadotrophin, to help her become pregnant and they suspected very early in the pregnancy she was going to have more than one baby.

Senior registrar Stuart Campbell said they had used an ultrasonic detector, a British invention recently developed in Glasgow, to diagnose there would be at least five babies. They were also able to accurately forecast the weights of the babies.

Mr Hanson is reported to have sold the rights of the couple's story to the Daily Express newspaper for a "substantial sum".

Doreen Adams, Mrs Hanson's former boss at Ford's in Ilford in Essex where she worked as a telephonist, has said the quintuplets were a well-kept secret among colleagues in the office.

She said: "Irene is so calm and efficient I am sure she will be able to tackle the mammoth job of looking after five babies with ease."

In Context
The Hanson girls did survive and are believed to be only the second set of all-girl quintuplets to do so.

The first set of surviving quintuplets were the Dionne sisters born in Ontario, Canada in 1934.

The Canadian girls were regarded as so unusual at the time of their birth they were treated almost like zoo exhibits, housed in a special section of the hospital with a viewing window.

There are approximately 10,000 multiple births in the UK every year. In 2001, two mothers in the UK gave birth to four or more children.

In the United States, a woman has given birth to a set of septuplets who all survived. There are three sets of sextuplets in the UK, born in 1983, 1986 and 1993.

The number of live multiple births has soared with the use of fertility drugs.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority took action in 2001 to reduce the number of multiple births by restricting the number of embryos used in IVF treatment. But there are no restrictions in the use of ovulation-inducing drugs.

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