10 of the strangest pregnancies in the world

Halima Cissé and Abdelkader Arby proudly pictured with their children on their first birthday
Halima Cissé and Abdelkader Arby pictured with their nine children on their first birthday (Image credit: Akdital)

Pregnancy is a remarkable time for any parent, but some of these record-breaking pregnancies take it to a whole new level —from a tiny baby who was slightly longer than a dinner fork when they were born, to a woman delivering nine babies at once. 

We’ve pulled together a collection of some of the most mind-boggling pregnancies and births on record.

Longest baby

Anna Haining Bates

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

In January 1987, Anna Bates gave birth to the longest baby ever recorded, according to Guinness World Records. The baby measured 28 inches (71.12 centimeters) from top to toe and weighed almost 22 pounds (10 kilograms). The baby, who was known as Babe, sadly died 11 hours later. The baby’s parents were both tall — Bates measured 7 feet 11 in (241 cm), and the baby’s father, Martin Van Buren Bates, measured 7 feet 9 in (236 cm) tall.

Shortest baby

tiny baby feet in black and white

(Image credit: Getty Images)

On the other end of the spectrum, a very small baby, born 9.44 in (24 cm) long, is the shortest baby ever recorded, Guinness World Records reported. Nisa Juarez weighed just 11.3 ounces (320 grams) when she was born 108 days premature on July 20, 2002. She was discharged from hospital five months later on Dec. 6, 2002.

Most babies born to one mother

Baby sat with line of teddy bears

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A woman who lived during the 18th century and is known only as the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev), a peasant from Shuya, Russia, gave birth to 69 babies in her lifetime, according to Guinness World Records. However, she didn’t go into labor 69 times, as she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets (she also holds the record for the most sets of twins and quadruplets born to one mother). Her husband remarried and had 18 more children with his second wife, meaning he had 87 children (although there is no way to verify that he fathered them all). 

Most premature baby

Curtis Means the worlds most premature baby to survive

(Image credit: University of Alabama at Birmingham)

The record for the most premature baby to survive is held by Curtis Means, who was born after only 21 weeks in the womb and weighed just 14.8 oz (420 g), according to Guinness World Records. His mother, Michelle Butler, gave birth to him in July 2020, and he was given a less than 1% chance of survival. Despite these odds, Curtis celebrated his second birthday in July 2022. He experienced some health complications due to his early delivery, including hypertension, for which he is medicated, and he initially had to be fed via a tube every three hours to keep his calorie intake up.

Most premature set of twins

kambry and keeley ewoldt, the world's most premature twins

(Image credit: Guinness World Records)

The world record for the most premature surviving twins was set by a pair of Iowa twins, Keeley and Kambry Ewoldt, who were born to mother Jade Ewoldt at 22 weeks in 2018 — 125 days premature. The babies weighed just 17.3 oz (490 g) and 13.4 oz (379 g) respectively upon delivery.

First test tube baby

Louise Brown - test tube baby- May 1980 And her parents Lesley and John Brown at home in Bristol

(Image credit: Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby” — a test tube baby is a baby conceived outside of the mother’s womb by in vitro fertilization and implanted later — was born on July 25, 1978 to mother Lesley Brown. The world record states that she was externally conceived on Nov. 10, 1977. 

Since Louise’s birth, over a million babies have been conceived via IVF, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. IVF has also become safer, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, with reported instances of hemorrhage, infection and hyperstimulation (an excessive response by the body to IVF drugs) reduced as well.

Most babies born at once

Halima Cissé and Abdelkader Arby proudly pictured with their children on their first birthday

(Image credit: Akdital)

In 2021 a Malian woman named Halima Cissé gave birth to nonuplets  — nine babies delivered from one pregnancy. Cissé, who was originally thought to be carrying seven babies, successfully delivered all nine babies by cesarean section after a 30-week gestation on May 6, 2021, breaking the world record for the most surviving children to be born at once. The family of 11 returned home to Mali after spending 19 months in Morocco.

Most sets of triplets born to one woman

three pairs of feet belonging to triplets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Maddalena Granata, from Italy, gave birth to 15 sets of triplets over her lifetime. She lived from 1839 to 1886, according to Guinness World Records, but not much else is known about her or her pregnancies.

Oldest human embryo carried to term

Liquid nitrogen cryogenic tank at life sciences laboratory

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Twins created on April 22, 1992 by in-vitro fertilization were born on Oct. 31, 2022 after being preserved in liquid nitrogen for over 30 years. The twins, who hold the record for being the oldest embryos carried to term, were born to a British couple, Rachel and Philip Rideway, who named the children Lydia and Timothy. 

Oldest mother to successfully carry a pregnancy to term

Midsection of woman injecting syringe in abdomen during IVF test at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Maria del Carmen Bousada Lara received IVF treatment in California after lying about her age and telling the clinic she was 11 years younger than she actually was. In 2006 she broke the world record for the oldest mother to give birth at age 66 years and 358 days. She told the clinic that inseminated her that she was 55.   

Lou Mudge
Health Writer

Lou Mudge is a health writer based in Bath, United Kingdom for Future PLC. She holds an undergraduate degree in creative writing from Bath Spa University, and her work has appeared in Live Science, Tom's Guide, Fit & Well, Coach, T3, and Tech Radar, among others. She regularly writes about health and fitness-related topics such as air quality, gut health, diet and nutrition and the impacts these things have on our lives. 

She has worked for the University of Bath on a chemistry research project and produced a short book in collaboration with the department of education at Bath Spa University.