PEORIA — A mysterious confluence of forces has created a joyful situation in the neonatal intensive care unit of OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois — in the last few months, 11 area women have given birth to multiples, and more are on the way.
“I don’t know if it’s a record, but I’ve been here for 10 years, and during that time it’s the most I’ve seen,” said Dr. Jawad Javed, medical director of the NICU.
While births involving twins are not very common, triplets are downright rare, and right now the hospital is caring for two sets of triplets, including a set conceived naturally.
“It’s highly unusual,” said Javed.
Most triplets are the result of in vitro fertilization, a process where multiple fertilized eggs are implanted in the uterus with the hope that at least one survives. Today, fertility doctors typically implant only two embryos, so Jana and Tony Gunther of Dunlap were shocked when they were shown three growing babies during their first sonogram appointment.
“We kind of knew there was a chance for multiples, but we didn’t expect three,” said Jana while holding Lincoln, Zeke and Max in their room at Children’s Hospital. “We were shocked, but excited. We’ve waited a long time for these guys.”
Though the babies were implanted through human intervention, nature quickly took over to create a third child, said Javed.
“Occasionally, nature takes its own hand and cleaves an egg,” he said. Lincoln and Zeke are identical, while Max is fraternal.
The Gunthers went through multiple attempts over four years to get pregnant, so they are delighted with their greatly expanded family.
“We call ‘em our little pair and a spare,” said Jana.
Down the hall, Megan Sopher was sitting with her new sons, Drew and Ben. They were born Feb. 22.
“We thought that was a good date for twins, the 22,” said Megan, who lives in Lynn Center, between Galesburg and the Quad Cities.
As of Friday, Megan has been in the hospital for 13 weeks — the first six weeks on bed rest and the last seven caring for her twins, who are making good progress.
“Their actual due date is May 5, and we’re hoping they will be released then,” said Megan.
Multiples are considered a complication of pregnancy, and most end up in the NICU for a while. While a normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, twins usually only last 36 to 37 weeks, and triplets are usually delivered at 32 weeks, said Javed.
“At that point, the lungs are just developed enough that they can breathe on their own, so when you have multiples they will have to spend some time in the NICU,” said Javed.
Right now, the NICU is full, but no one has been turned away, said Javed. Staff has pulled together to handle the influx of tiny patients.
“I’m very proud of our staff. They’ve done a wonderful job,” he said. “We are blessed to be able to serve the community.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.