SAN DIEGO — A 55-year-old woman who became pregnant by test-tube fertilization has given birth to quadruplets, making her possibly the oldest person in the United States to deliver four babies at once.
The three girls and one boy remained in intensive care Thursday at Mary Birch Hospital for Women. One was in critical condition.
At the woman's request, the hospital did not release her name. She gave birth Saturday; the babies were two months premature and were delivered by caesarean section. Their weights were not disclosed.
Heather Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said the woman is believed to be the oldest in the United States to give birth to quadruplets.
The unmarried woman underwent in vitro fertilization, in which an egg and a sperm are combined in a lab dish and the fertilized egg is then transferred to the woman's uterus.
Doctors routinely implant two to six embryos at once to increase the chances that at least one will take hold. If more than one embryo takes hold, doctors offer the woman the opportunity to abort one or more.
Pregnancy in post-menopausal women is becoming a controversial area.
"There is a social debate as to whether women in their 50s and 60s should be having children, let alone a single mother," said Dr. Gary D. Hubert, director of the Greater Valley Center for Reproductive Medicine in Northridge.
Hubert provided in vitro fertilization last year to Cheryl Fillippini, a 50-year-old grandmother from Lompoc who gave birth to quadruplets.
Fillippini also gave birth to three girls and a boy via caesarean section, two months premature. At that time, hospital administrators believed she was the oldest woman to give birth to four babies.
In 1996, a 63-year-old woman from Highland, Calif., became the world's oldest first-time mother when she delivered a healthy girl after undergoing in vitro fertilization.
The number of multiple births in the United States has quadrupled since 1971, according to the National Center of Health Statistics. Experts attribute the increase to older women using fertility drugs and other reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization.
In 1994, the latest year for which statistics were available, 4,233 sets of triplets, 315 sets of quadruplets and 46 sets of quintuplets were born in the United States.