Chukwu delivered her 2-week-old daughter's five sisters and two brothers Sunday to complete the first known surviving set of octuplets. They ranged from 11 ounces to nearly two pounds, and all were in critical condition after birth.
"We're very hopeful all of the babies will survive, but they're critically ill newborns and we can't say for sure everything will be OK," said Dr. Patti Savrick, a pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital.
"When that first baby delivered, we were fortunate that the cervix clamped down," doctors added. "That in combination with a certain medication we gave the mom allowed the uterus to remain pregnant."
The first girl was 12 weeks premature, and the others were 10 weeks early. The survival rate for babies born so young is 85 percent, doctors said.
The babies were whisked one by one to Texas Children's from the operating room at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. About 30 medical personnel were involved in the 45-minute Caesarean section.
Seven of the babies were on ventilators Monday to help them breathe, and all eight will likely remain hospitalized for two or three months.
Dr. Leonard Weisman, chief neonatal specialist at Texas Children's, said he will watch for lung and heart problems over the next few days. After that, metabolic problems and infections are a danger.
Chukwu, a native of Nigeria who lives in Houston with her husband, Iyke, could be out of the hospital by week's end.
Chukwu had been taking fertility drugs. She conceived triplets last year but lost them midway through her pregnancy. The couple has no other children.
Until the first child was born naturally on Dec. 8, doctors were unsure how many fetuses Mrs. Chukwu was carrying because her uterus was so crowded, Kirshon said.
Giving birth to the first baby probably bought the other seven valuable time to mature. The littlest of the seven born Sunday might not have survived much longer in the womb, he said.
Mrs. Chuwu entered the hospital in early October and was confined to bed for six weeks. For the past 17 days, her bed was inclined with her head toward the floor in order to keep pressure off her lower body.
Doctors had discussed with her the possibility of aborting one or more fetuses to help the others' chances for survival, but Mrs. Chukwu declined.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest multiple birth was nine babies in Sydney, Australia, in 1971. All the children died.
Three other cases of octuplets have been recorded in the past 13 years. In two cases, all the babies died. In 1996, Rosario Clavijo, 31, of Huelva, Spain, lost two of eight fetuses before birth but then went on to deliver six healthy babies.
In Iowa, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey offered their congratulations in the midst of holiday celebrations with their septuplets, born on Nov. 19, 1997.
"We wish them the Lord's blessing and a merry Christmas," the couple said through their agent. Mrs. McCaughey, whose children were only the second set of septuplets to be born alive and the first to survive, had also taken fertility drugs.