Are quintuplets possible naturally? How rare are quintuplets? Are quintuplets identical? These questions–and many more–are on the minds of reality TV viewers across the land, thanks to Outdaughtered, TLC’s newest foray into the multiple birth genre. Texans Danielle and Adam Busby were the first couple in American history to have an all-girl set of quintuplets–though, as fans will soon find out, the challenges of caring for six total children under the age of four have only just begun!
Before we get into some of the more frequently asked quintuplet questions, here’s a quick overview of the show, courtesy of TLC:
OutDaughtered captures Danielle, Adam, and their adorable 4-year-old daughter Blayke as they adjust to their new life, while trying to hold on to the identities and lives they had cultivated before the five new additions arrived. Following the hilarious and heartwarming antics of the entire family–including Danielle’s zany mother, Michelle, and her older twin sisters and their families–it’s all hands on deck as the family relies on a tight-knit circle to make the most out of this incredible lifetime adventure.
In addition, here’s a bit more about the five newest additions to the Busby family, who were born on April 8th, 2015, when Danielle was at 28 weeks and two days. The five girls’ names–in descending order of age–are Olivia Marie, Ava Lane, Hazel Grace, Parker Kate, and Riley Paige Busby. It took a team of twelve doctors and specialists to complete the delivery, though the delivery itself only lasted for four (4!) minutes. Each one of the five girls weighed between two pounds and two pounds, six ounces at birth; after being born, they were all put on oxygen to help out their tiny lungs.
Oh–and, in case you were wondering about Danielle’s diet while she was pregnant with five hungry babies? By her own estimate, she was eating about 4,500 calories per day. It was “laughable,” Danielle said at the time. “I tried my best to do it.”
Are quintuplets possible naturally?
This is probably the most common question about high-order multiple births. The answer, believe it or not, is: yes! Multiple births are rather rare–more on that in a bit–but not completely unheard of, even when the couple isn’t taking fertility drugs. (Danielle and Adam used fertility drugs to conceive their girls; the couple’s struggle with infertility is one of the show’s dramatic tentpoles.) Generally speaking, fertility drugs increase a couple’s chance of conceiving two or more babies by 20%. Other factors that help: being a bit older (the chance increases by 4% for couples between 30 and 34, and 5% if you’re between 35 and 39); a family history of multiple births; and a woman who’s given birth before.
In fact, while quintuplets are rare, they’re hardly the most high-profile multiple birth to capture America’s attention over the past few years. In 2009, Nadya Suleman–popularly known as the Octomom–carried eight children to term after conceiving them using in-vitro fertilization. And it was a group of sextuplets that led TLC to create Jon and Kate Plus 8.
How rare are quintuplets?
The general rule of thumb for the likelihood of a multiple birth is calculated using what’s called Hellin’s Law. Simply put, the mathematical probability of a pair of twins is one per 89 births. In order to calculate the likelihood of multiples beyond that, you multiply by 89 once more.
According to Hellin’s Law, then, the chance of a woman conceiving triplets is 1:89*89, or about one per 7,921 births. By the same logic, the probability of quadruplets is 1 in 704,969. (In fact, it just happened–as in four days ago–up in Alberta, where the four identical twin girls were conceived naturally.) And the chance of a woman conceiving quintuplets naturally, without any sort of fertility drug, IVF treatment, or other medical aid, is roughly one in sixty-two million, seven-hundred-forty-two thousand, two-hundred-forty one. (1:62,742,241).
It looks like the last set of naturally conceived quintuplets born in the United States were delivered on September 12, 2013, to Evonne and Dion Derrico of Mesa AZ. (Fun fact about that: The Derricos were expecting quadruplets; the fifth baby was a shock to the couple and their doctors. Surprise!)
Are quintuplets identical?
They can be, but don’t have to be. It depends on how many egg and sperm combinations occur within the mother’s womb. Identical twins are monozygotic, meaning they come from the same fertilized egg, which then splits into two embryos. Fraternal twins are multizygotic: they share the womb, but come from separate fertilized eggs. There’s no rule about the likelihood of either occurring; just as a set of all-female or all-male quintuplets is less likely than some of each, so is a compliment of five identical babies less likely than a mix of identical and fraternal (or, in the case of the Busbys, sororal) kids.
Among the Busby quintuplets, Olivia Marie and Ava Lane are identical twins; their other three sisters are sororal.
And speaking of the Busbys: now you’ll definitely want to tune in to their show! You can catch Outdaughtered Tuesday nights at 10 PM on TLC.
(Photo credits: Are quintuplets possible naturally via TLC, Instagram, ItsABuzzWorld)