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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The California woman who astonished doctors this week by giving birth to octuplets said on Thursday she was "ecstatic about all of their arrivals" but declined to address media reports that she already has six other children.
The prepared statement read by doctors at a news conference marked the first public comment from the unidentified woman since her premature infants, six boys and two girls, were delivered by Caesarean section on Monday.
Their arrival, ranking as only the second set of octuplets known to have survived birth in the United States, surprised doctors who had seen only seven babies in ultrasound images.
Officials at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Bellflower have declined to identify the mother or reveal if she received fertility treatments, which can increase the likelihood of multiple births.
The mother herself shed no light on those questions, appealing instead for respect of family's privacy, and neither she nor her doctors commented on reports that she already has several children.
There are no known cases of naturally conceived octuplets.
"Please know in our time we will share additional details about this miraculous experience," she wrote. "My family and I are ecstatic about all of their arrivals."
The mother did reveal that she came to Kaiser after becoming pregnant, and Dr. Harold Henry said she was in her first trimester of pregnancy when Kaiser took over her case "from an outside provider."
Updating reporters on the babies' condition, doctors described them as "feisty" and said all eight continued to show improvement as they remained in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
Seven were breathing completely on their own and had begun feeding, though they continued to receive intravenous nutritional supplements.
In reporting on "The Early Show" that the mother already has six other children, a CBS correspondent who visited the woman's Los Angeles-area home cited two unnamed acquaintances.
One of those acquaintances said that the mother lived with her parents and that two of her other children were twins.
The birth of the octuplets already has raised eyebrows, with fertility and reproductive experts saying that such high-risk pregnancies should be avoided.
"When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies," Michael Tucker, an Atlanta-based clinical embryologist and leading researcher in fertility treatments, told the Los Angeles Times.
"If a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there's some degree of inappropriate medical therapy there," the Times quoted him as saying.
Asked by a reporter whether medical ethics may have been breached and whether fertility assistance was provided to a mother who already had multiple children, Henry replied: "That's still a private, personal question."
"Our patient was counseled regarding her options for pregnancy. The options were to continue the pregnancy or selectively abort. The patient chose to continue the pregnancy," Henry said. "Our goal is to provide the best possible care for our patients, no matter what the situation or circumstances."
The last octuplets known to have survived birth in the United States, six girls and two boys, were born in Houston in 1998. One of the babies, a girl, died one week later.
Editing by Eric Walsh