LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The California woman who gave birth to octuplets less than two weeks ago said in an interview broadcast on Friday that her babies were the product of six implanted embryos, the same procedure used to conceive her six other children.
In the NBC television interview, Nadya Suleman, 33, also defended her decision to have so many children and suggested she was being singled out for harsh public criticism in part because she is a single mom.
Suleman, dubbed “Octo-mom” in New York tabloids, went public as the California Medical Board launched an inquiry into the fertility treatments leading to the birth of her octuplets, delivered on January 26, 9-1/2 weeks premature.
The arrival of the six boys and two girls marked only the second known set of U.S. octuplets to have survived birth.
“I feel as though I’ve been under the microscope because I’ve chosen this unconventional kind of life,” Suleman told NBC News. “I didn’t intend on it being unconventional. It just turned out to be. All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom. That’s all I ever wanted in my life.”
Suleman has been ridiculed for seeking to expand her family through fertility assistance when she already had six children, with TV therapist Dr. Drew Pinsky calling it “child abuse.”
But her case also has drawn dismay from experts in reproductive medicine, who say they work hard to avoid high-number multiple births because of the health risks they pose to mother and offspring.
Under guidelines for in vitro fertilization, in which sperm and eggs are combined in a dish, doctors normally implant no more than two or three resulting embryos back in the mother’s uterus, specialists say.
The California Medical Board said in a statement it has opened an investigation into the case to “see if we can substantiate a violation of the standard of care.”
Suleman has said she used the same vitro fertilization specialist to conceive all of her children, each pregnancy resulting from the implantation of six embryos.
The care provider has not been identified, but Michael Furtney, a publicist hired by Suleman, said he believed she had the treatments in the United States.
Divorced and living with her mother in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier, Suleman now has three or four nannies helping to care for the six children she already has at home, Furtney said. Those four boys and two girls, including one set of twins, range in age from 2 to 7, he said.
Asked if she thought it was irresponsible to again undergo a fertility treatment that could produce multiple births, Suleman said: “A lot of couples ... undergo this procedure. It’s not as controversial because they’re couples, so it’s more acceptable to society.”
Suleman told NBC’s Ann Curry the same sperm donor, a friend, fathered all 14 of her children, Curry said following the interview segments broadcast on Friday.
Curry also said Suleman wanted to have one more child, not eight.
According to a partial transcript of the NBC interview released on Thursday, Suleman said she was an only child who longed for a “huge family” and sought for seven years to get pregnant, trying various types of fertility assistance.
The Los Angeles Times, citing state documents, reported on Friday that Suleman previously suffered three miscarriages. Her marriage collapsed in 2000 and she got pregnant with her first child that year.
According to those records, Suleman suffered bouts of severe depression during the pregnancy and after the birth of her first child, telling a therapist, “I just wanted to die.”
(Additional reporting by Walker Simon in New York)
Editing by Xavier Briand