In the Guinness Book of World Records, there is a record for a woman who gave birth to 69 children in her lifetime. She accomplished this by including many sets of multiples. Experts aren’t so sure about the record’s legitimacy, despite the known records, for a variety of reasons — but this individual is the record holder regardless (1)
Guinness World Records recognizes a Russian woman who gave birth to 69 children.
The woman who gave birth to 69 children was Feodor Vassilyev’s wife, a Russian peasant. Despite the fact that her first name is uncertain, historical records indicate that she had 27 children between 1725 and 1765. During that 40-year period, the woman had:
- 16 pairs of twins
- 7 sets of triplets
- 4 sets of quadruplets
Each birth is registered in the case, which the Monastery of Nikolsk reported to Moscow in 1782. It also reveals that two of the 69 babies died before reaching adulthood. Furthermore, Feodor had 18 children with his second wife, making him the father of many more children. His second wife gave birth to eight sets of twins and two sets of triplets: six sets of twins and two sets of triplets. One of those children perished.
How Possible is it?
Mrs. Vassilyev was most likely predisposed to hyper-ovulation, according to Guinness. When a woman releases multiple eggs in a single cycle, her chances of having twins, triplets, or more are increased. Experts, however, are skeptical of the assertion. Although it is theoretically possible for a woman to give birth to 27 different sets of multiples, this is highly unlikely. The chances of this were even lower in the Russian countryside in the 1700s.
For instance, a woman’s chances of dying in childbirth were very high back then. When a woman gives birth to several babies at once, the chance of complications and hemorrhaging is much higher. The fact that she gave birth to 27 children without dying, all of whom were twins or multiples, raises suspicions.
Another aspect that seems improbable is the number of children who managed to live. And for single infants, the infant mortality rate was very high during that time period. It would have been nearly impossible to have just two out of 69 children die, particularly because every birth was at least twins.
“Even if you had four sets of quads today, I’m not sure they’d all survive,” says James Segars, director of the Division of Reproductive Science and Women’s Health Research at Johns Hopkins University. (2)
Can The Female Body Support 69 Babies and 27 Births?
The number of babies that a woman’s body is capable of making is uncertain. Mrs. Vassilyev would have spent nearly half of her life pregnant during the 40 years she gave birth to all of her children. Although this can seem impossible, particularly to any woman who has recently given birth, it is not impossible. Still, the age she would have been when she gave birth to the last few sets raises concerns.
Women’s fertility declines dramatically as they age, long before they reach menopause. After the age of 44-45, the chances of being pregnant are slim.
Vassilyev would have continued to give birth even after her prime reproductive years had passed.
The other consideration is whether or not such a large number of multiples is practical, and whether or not the female body can physically accommodate such a large number of births. This is where things start to get a little murky. Yes, a woman can ovulate more than once in a cycle, though this is uncommon. Certain circumstances, as well as a family background, could make this more likely, but the chances are still extremely slim. Then there’s the fact that pregnancy is incredibly taxing on a woman’s body. Pregnancy and childbirth are, in reality, the most physically demanding experiences a woman can have. The older you are, the harder this becomes. Carrying several babies at the same time adds to the difficulty.
So, can we take this claim seriously? It’s real, according to numerous historical records. This statistic appears to be suspect, according to experts.
In any case, I’m confident that any woman reading this would agree with me that giving birth 27 times and having 69 children is much too many.
Mrs. Vassilyev is still a rock star even if the number is half of what was published!
- “Most prolific mother ever.” Guinness World Records
- “Did one woman really give birth to 69 children?” BBC. Adam Hadhazy. October 20, 2015.