The Guinness Book Of World Records has a record of a woman who birthed 69 babies throughout her lifetime. She did this by giving birth to several sets of multiples. Despite the known records, experts aren’t so sure of the record’s validity for a number of reasons — but this person is the record holder nonetheless (1)
Russian Woman Who Birthed 69 Babies In Guinness Book Of World Records
The woman who birthed 69 babies was the wife of a Russian peasant named Feodor Vassilyev. Though her first name is unknown, the historical records show that she gave birth 27 times between 1725 and 1765. During that 40 year span, the woman gave birth to (1):
- 16 pairs of twins
- 7 sets of triplets
- 4 sets of quadruplets
The case, which the Monastery of Nikolsk reported to Moscow in 1782, has each birth recorded. It also shows that two of the 69 babies did not survive infancy. What’s more, Feodor himself actually fathered even more children, having had 18 children with his second wife. His second wife gave birth eight times to six sets of twins and two sets of triplets. Only one of those children did not survive infancy. (1)
How Plausible Is This?
Guinness says that it is, saying that Mrs. Vassilyev was likely predisposed to hyper-ovulation. (1) This is the phenomenon when a woman releases multiple eggs in a single cycle, increasing her chances of having twins, triplets, or more. Still, experts find the claim dubious. While it is technically possible for a woman to give birth 27 times to various sets of multiples, it is unlikely. The chances of this were even lower in the Russian countryside in the 1700s. (2)
For starters, back then, the chances of a woman dying in childbirth were quite high. This is even higher if a woman gives birth to multiple babies at once when complications and hemorrhaging are a prominent risk. The fact that this woman gave birth 27 times without dying, all to twins or more, is cause for suspicion. (2)
Another part that seems unlikely is the number of children who survived. The infancy death rate was quite high in that period of history, even just for single babies. To only have two out of 69 children not survive, especially given every birth was at least twins, would have been nearly impossible. (2)
“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 actual number of babies that the female body might actually be capable of producing is unknown. In the 40-year span that Mrs. Vassilyev gave birth to all of her children, she would have spent nearly half of that time pregnant. While this seems crazy, especially to any woman who has given birth, it is not impossible. Still, the age she would have been by the time she was birthing the last few sets is cause for questioning. (2)
Women’s fertility drops drastically as they get older, even before hitting menopause. The chances of becoming pregnant after the age of 44-45 are low. Vassilyev would have been still birthing children long after her prime reproductive years were over. (2)
The other factor is whether or not that many multiples is possible and if the female body could physically handle that many births. This is where things become a little less clear. Yes, a woman can ovulate multiple times in a cycle, though it is rare. There are certain conditions as well as a family history that could make this more likely, but still, the instances are very low. Then there is the fact that pregnancy is extremely hard on the female body. In fact, pregnancy and labor are the most strenuous physical challenges that the female body has to face. The older you are, the harder this becomes. Also, carrying multiple babies at once makes this an even bigger challenge. (2)
So, should we believe this claim? According to multiple historical record books, it’s true. According to experts, this stat seems quite fishy. Either way, I’m sure every woman out there reading this will agree with me that giving birth 27 times, and having 69 babies, is far, far too many. Even if the number is half of what was reported Mrs. Vassilyev is still a rock star!