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Exclusive: Moroccan doctor who delivered first-ever living nonuplets speaks out

Halima Cissé of Mali gave birth to nine babies in May 2021.
/ Source: TODAY

When Halima Cissé broke the record for giving birth to nine babies at the same time, Dr. Youssef Alaoui's goal was simple: keep mom and babies safe.

Pediatrician Dr. Msayif Khali examines one of the nine babies born at the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca, Morocco.Abdeljalil Bounhar / AP

Alaoui, the director of the private clinic in Morocco where Cissé gave birth, shared the story of the remarkable birth and survival of all nine babies in an email interview with TODAY Parents.

"It’s a first for the whole world."

"At the Casablanca Ain Borja Clinic, we’ve seen all sorts of complicated medical situations, but I have to say that the birth of nonuplets…that’s a first for us," he told TODAY Parents. "It’s a first for the whole world, and we’re proud to have had this extraordinary experience thanks to our medical and technical expertise."

Cissé, 26, was first hospitalized in her home country of Mali, where the doctors performed ultrasounds and were worried about the chances of survival of the fetuses.

A nurse takes care of one of the nine babies protected in an incubator at a private clinic in Morocco; it was the first-ever birth of nonuplets who all survived.Abdeljalil Bounhar / AP

From the time of Cisse's arrival, Alaoui and his team were able to extend her pregnancy five weeks before she delivered at 30 weeks. A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, but higher order multiples generally are born sooner, and have complicated medical needs. In total, 10 doctors and 25 paramedics cared for the patient from her arrival until delivery.

"We were a team of three resuscitators, three anesthesiologists, two gynecologists, three neonatologists, (and a) catheterizer, not to mention the midwives and our extraordinary team of midwives and neonatal paramedics without whom nothing would have been possible," he said. "Ms. Cissé was 25 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to our clinic and our team was able to extend her pregnancy up to 30 weeks."

But at delivery — expecting seven babies — doctors got a real shock.

A Moroccan nurse takes care of one of the nine babies born at the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca, two weeks after Mali's Halima Cissé gave birth to nine healthy babies, a new world record.Abdeljalil Bounhar / AP

"The glimpse we got from the ultrasound made it seem like there were only seven, so you can imagine our surprise when we discovered nine of them during the birth," Alaoui said. "Luckily this didn’t faze us, since we have one of the largest neonatal resuscitation services in Morocco. Our teams were ready to welcome these children into the world and able to treat them in the best conditions."

Alaoui said that while shocking, it was just another day at the office for his team of medical professionals.

"In our line of work, you have to know how to deal with stress and nervousness," he said. "We’re keeping an eye on the babies, but we can safely say that we accomplished our mission."

Clinic director Dr. Youssef Alaoui, right, speaks to the media after the birth of nonuplets at the private clinic of Ain Borja in Casablanca, Morocco; Dr. Alaoui revealed more details about the birth to TODAY.Abdeljalil Bounhar / AP

The five girls and four boys weighed between 1.1 pound and 2.2 pounds at birth. Only two other sets of nonuplet births have been recorded since the 1970s, but the babies all died within days.

The previous world record for multiple birth was held by California mom Natalie (Nadya) Suleman, who gave birth to eight premature but otherwise healthy children in 2009.

As for Cissé and her family, Alaoui is hopeful they can return home soon.

"The mother is very healthy," he explained. "She is no longer in danger and we wish her and her babies a speedy recovery. We’re still monitoring some of the babies who are still quite fragile. God willing, I think the family will be able to return to Mali in a few weeks."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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