Octuplet mother suffers miscarriages

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Mandy Allwood was faced with the grim prospect last night of losing all eight babies she was bearing after being admitted to hospital when she began to miscarry.

The 32-year-old, who was between 19 and 20 weeks pregnant, suffered her first miscarriage at home in Wandsworth, south-west London, at 5.30pm. Last night, doctors said the prospects for her unborn babies was "bleak".

She was taken to King's College Hospital where she was being treated last night. The loss of the foetuses rekindled debate about whether Ms Allwood should ever have received infertility treatment and the role of the media in encouraging her to continue carrying all eight babies against medical advice.

Donald Gibb, consultant obstetrician, said in a statement last night: "Sadly she has lost three babies and the situation for the others is bleak."

The divorcee from Solihull, West Midlands, had been warned by specialists that she faced a serious risk of premature deliveries or miscarriage after deciding to go ahead with all eight births.

Doctors knew she suffered from a history of high blood pressure during pregnancy after the birth of her first child five years ago.

And Professor Kypros Nicolaides, head of foetal medicine at the hospital, made her aware of the dangers she faced going through with the multiple birth.

He said recently that the pregnancy would only be viable after 24 weeks when a Caesarean section would be performed.

But because of the restricted conditions, each foetus would be the equivalent of a normal baby of 16 weeks and each would stand just a one-in-three chance of survival.

The media played a crucial role in Ms Allwood's pregnancy from the moment her boyfriend, Paul Hudson, approached Central Television in Birmingham to see if they would be interested in her octuplet pregnancy. Realising from Central's interest what a story they had on their hands they contacted PR agent Max Clifford, whose former clients include such celebrity figures as Antonia de Sancha and Bienvenida Buck. But from the moment she signed a deal with the News of the World deal - reputedly for pounds 350,000 - there were fears voiced that the prospect of wealth and fame were hampering her judgement.

Multiple birth places great stress on a mother's body and makes it more difficult for each baby to develop normally.

Lord Winston, Professor of Fertility Studies at Hammersmith Hospital, London, warned that the chances of any baby being born alive and well were "virtually non-existent".