May 28th is
The date marks the birthday of the country’s most famous multiples,
the Dionne quintuplets.
Annette, Cécile, Yvonne, Marie, and Émilie Dionne were the first quintuplets known to survive past infancy. The five sisters were also the only known
set of identical quintuplets to reach adulthood.
The Government of Ontario took possession of the girls as infants, benefiting from their tourism appeal for nine years. In 1997, the
three surviving sisters reached out the parents of the first set of
septuplets to survive infancy, stating that "Multiple births should not
be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to
sell products." The women hoped the children would "receive more respect" than the Dionne’s had, wishing "their fate… be no different from that
of other children."
The worldwide fame garnered by the Dionne's birth in May 1934 was
likely the reason the January 1935 arrival of triplets in Moncton made the papers including the Montreal Gazette. An articlenotes that the city’s first triplets (Joan, Kenneth, and Harry Brooks) were "quite healthy" and that "the mother is doing nicely." It also states that the "stork must have broken
a good many flying records. The girl arrived first at 10:30am, fourteen minutes later the first boy was safely delivered. The stork's flying time
was not so good for the third trip. He made it, however, in twenty-three minutes, which, considering his two previous trips,was fairly good going."
There have been a few more sets of triplets born locally over the years,
including a rare set of identical triplets, brothers who are growing before our eyes, and a trio of boys whose arrival helped spark the creation of the local support group for multiple families.
By the numbers
The odds of having triplets in Canada, without fertility treatments, is
about one in 8,100 births in Canada. The most common multiple families include twins; the rate of spontaneous twin births (no fertility treatments)
in Canada is about one in 90 pregnancies, according to Multiple Births Canada. More than 6,000 sets of twins are born each year in Canada.
Multiple Births Canada estimates there are approximately 100 sets
of triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets born in this country annually.
From 1995 until 2008, the rate of multiple births in Canada rose
(from 2.2% to 3.2%); it is believed increased use of fertility treatments
was a factor. In the past few years, as improvements have been made
to assisted human reproduction techniques, the rate of multiple births
in Canada has decreased.
The first set of sextuplets born in Canada were delivered at a
Vancouver hospital in January 2007. The four boys and two girls
were deliveredby caesarian section just after 25 weeks gestation.
One was born on a Saturday, the rest on a Sunday. Two of the infants
died shortly after birth; the family became involved in a court battle with
the province over the parents refusal to consent to blood transfusions
based on religious grounds.
Between 1934 and 1999, there were at least eight sets of quintuplets
born in Canada. The Gilmour quintuplets (three girls and two boys) were
11 weeks premature; they turned 16 this year. When Madisson, Alexandra, Sarah, Simon, and Ryan turned one in 2000, their mother Yvonne said
she was relieved, noting the family relied on a team of about 20 volunteers to help get through the first year.
The first set of identical quadruplets born in Canada were the Steeves daughters, born in Calgary in 1982. (The Steeves are, of course, related to our local Steeves pioneers.) At that time, Carrie Dawn, Jennie Lee, Mary Beth, and Patty Ann were the highest order of multiple identical births to survive in Canada since the Dionnes. Now adults, the girls and their family say there was media attention when they were young, but the "15 minutes
of fame came and went." Carrie Dawn Steeves told a reporter that
the media "would come and take our pictures for every birthday when
we were little, but we haven't heard from anyone now in years."
They heard from them in 2007 when another rare set of identical quadruplets was born. Autumn, Brooke, Calissa, and Dahlia Jepp had to spend their first night in two different countries because of a shortage
of neonatal beds in Canada. The Jepp girls were conceived without
fertility drugs and are one of fewer than 50 cases of identical
quadruplets recorded in the world.
Edmonton identical triplets Luke, Mason, and Thomas Lowe and
their family are chronicling their journey with multiples and cancer.
The boys, who were conceived without fertility treatments and arrived
at 34 weeks gestation in December 2013, were all diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a pediatric eye cancer affecting about 22 children
each year in Canada.
Though it is rare, twins are sometimes born conjoined. One set of
Canadian twins, girls born in British Columbia in 2006, are joined at
the top, backs, and sides of their heads. The girls' nervous systems are connected – tickle one, the other laughs – and it is believed the girls
can even see through each other's eyes. Surgery to separate the twins
is not considered a viable option.
A Few Famous Canadian Multiples
Kiefer and Rachel Sutherland
A Few Famous Canadian Multiple Parents
Not a two-for-one deal
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recognizes
that families of multiples "face increased physical, financial, and
Based on 2011 data – and NOT including the cost of diapers, larger homes or vehicles, hiring help, or factoring in loss of income – the first-year cost
of a single baby is $35,000. Twins are $42,000. Triplets are $49,000, quadruplets are $55,000, and quintuplets are $63,000.
A study from 1983 concluded that it would take 197.5 hours a week to
care for six-month-old triplets. There are only 168 hours in a week.
Fewer multiple moms return to the workforce after their children's
first birthday, compared to singleton births.
More than half of all twins born, and almost all higher order multiples, arrive prematurely. Multiple births account for 22% of all preterm births
in Canada; these children are at higher risk for neonatal mortality,
developmental disbilities, and a lifetime of chronic and special needs.
The cost for each baby born in a multiple birth is estimated to be
4.8 times higher than a single birth.
Multiples on Parade
Each year, the Just for Laughs Festival holds a parade celebrating
twins, triplets, and more. Siblings march down the streets of
Montreal during the comedy festival. The parade always has a
theme and fantastic costumes. This year’s Le Parade Endiablee
took place on Saturday, July 18, 2015.
For 2015, Multiple Births Canada used
National Multiple Births Awareness Day
to draw attention to a life-threatening condition
that occurs during some multiple pregnancies.
Take a moment to read their information and
family stories about Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.
The story of one Moncton family's TTTS story was
featured in Today’s Parent.