Extreme Moms: 6 Record-Breaking Mothers

A pregnant woman rubs her lower back.
Back pain is a common problem during pregnancy. (Image credit: Pregnancy photo via Shutterstock)

Motherhood is an impressive feat under any circumstances. But for some mothers, it's almost miraculous.

From the world's youngest mom to the world's oldest, and the most pregnancies to the most babies born in a single pregnancy, here are some of the world's most extreme moms.

Most births from one pregnancy

Nadya Suleman, better known as "Octomom," became world famous when she gave birth to eight babies in January 2009. When she was 33, the single American mother gave birth to the only known set of octuplets to live past their first week, USA Today reported previously. [Blossoming Body: 8 Odd Changes That Happen During Pregnancy]

Suleman, who already had six children before giving birth to the octuplets, conceived all of her children (including the first six) through in vitro fertilization, sparking a debate about the technology. The Medical Board of California later revoked the license of the doctor who performed the procedure.

Most prolific mom

The most children born to any woman in recorded history is 69, according to Guinness World Records. The mother was a peasant from Shuya, Russia, identified only as the wife of Feodor Vassilyev. Mrs. Vassilyev lived during the 18th century, and had 27 pregnancies, including 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets, according to "The Guinness Book of World Records 1998" (Bantam Books).

Youngest mother

The youngest mother ever to give birth was Lina Medina, a Peruvian girl who was 5 years, 7 months and 21 days old when she gave birth in May 1939, according to a report in the journal La Presse Médicale. Doctors originally thought Medina's enlarged abdomen was a tumor, but they later found she was 7 months pregnant. Medina gave birth to a boy by Caesarean section, because of her small pelvis. According to the report, Medina first began menstruating when she was 8 months old, though a different report claimed she was older. According to Snopes.com, Medina's father was initially jailed on suspicion of incest, but was released because there wasn't any evidence to convict him, and it was never determined who the father of Medina's child was.

Oldest mother

The oldest woman to give birth was an Indian woman named Omkari Panwar, who gave birth to twins at age 72, in June 2008. She conceived the twins — a boy and a girl — by in vitro fertilization, and gave birth via C-section, according to ABC News. Panwar already had two children and five grandchildren with her 75-year-old husband.

First 'pregnant man'

Thomas Beatie, a transgender man living in Oregon, became the world's first man to become pregnant and give birth, in 2008. Beatie — a public speaker, author and advocate for transgender and sexuality issues — was born a woman and underwent chest reconstruction surgery (but not sterilization) and testosterone therapy. He decided to have a baby via artificial insemination using a sperm donor, because his wife, Nancy, had had a hysterectomy and was unable to carry a child. Beatie has given birth to three children in total, according to his website.

Smallest mom

Stacey Herald, who stands just 2 feet 4 inches (71 centimeters) tall, has given birth to three babies, despite doctors' warnings that the pregnancies could be life-threatening. Herald, a native of Dry Ridge, Kentucky, suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease,a genetic disorder that results in weak bones that break easily. Doctors advised Herald against having children, because her pelvis is so small that a growing fetus could have crushed her internal organs, ABC News reported previously. Her oldest and youngest children also have the bone disorder, but her middle child is average height.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.