The 34-year-old carried the three girls and two boys to 31.5 weeks gestation, delivering them via cesarean section on Sunday at about 11:30 a.m., said Tracy Manuck, the maternal fetal medicine specialist at the U. who oversaw the high-risk pregnancy.
The procedure lasted only a few minutes, but it took more than 100 medical staff to monitor the babies and Guillermina, who was admitted to the hospital in early April and was on bed rest until she developed pre-eclampsia and was forced to deliver, said Manuck.
"We are very excited about this remarkable delivery," she said, noting the typical gestation for quintuplets is 27 to 29 weeks. "She beat the odds and averages by quite a lot."
Quintuplets are rare but sets are born every year in the U.S. On Saturday, a Texas couple also delivered quintuplets, according to KIII-TV in Corpus Christi. This is the first set ever born at the U., said Manuck.
In the past five years, four sets of quads have been born in Utah, according to the state Department of Health. Twins are much more common: Nearly 800 sets are born a year.
Numbers for how many quintuplets are born nationally are squishy, because a fair number don't survive, said Manuck, who estimates the range to be about 12 to 30 sets per year.
Multiple births pose health risks for moms and their babies. Preterm babies, even so-called "late-preterm" infants born between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation, are at greater risk for complications, including developmental delays, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Guillermina is expected to leave the hospital in two days. But Esmeralda, Fatima, Fernando, Marissa, Jordan named by their order of birth will stay in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit for six weeks or more, said U. neonatologist Elizabeth O'Brien.
"We were fortunate to have some advanced warning. It took five full resuscitation teams [including five separate doctors] to manage these babies," said O'Brien. "It all went very smoothly, better than one would anticipate."
The Garcia babies range in weight from 2 lbs. 12 ounces to 3 lbs. 14 ounces. The largest was Fernando, who was named for his father.
One needed help breathing initially, but all three girls are off oxygen and starting to be fed, O'Brien said. The boys still require oxygen, which is not unusual.
The Garcias, natives of Mexico who have lived in Utah for six years, conceived with the help of fertility treatments, but declined for personal reasons to elaborate further.
But odds are they didn't use in vitro fertilization (IVF), because "good [fertility] centers never transfer more than one, two and rarely three embryos," said Russell Foulk, a fertility expert and obstetrician and gynecologist at the Utah Fertility Center in Pleasant Grove.
A treatment such as the drug Clomid, which boosts a woman's egg production, could result in quintuplets, but rarely and only if the mother wasn't properly monitored, he said.
Patients at Foulk's practice who produce multiple follicles, which hold developing eggs inside an ovary, undergo follicle reduction prior to the woman ovulating. "You go in and take the follicles out with a needle. Even with two you have a good chance of getting pregnant," he said. "The problem is some OB-GYN's give out Clomid like candy."
The Garcias said they learned they were expecting five babies early in the pregnancy; University Hospital took over Guillermina's care when she was seven weeks pregnant. The couple also has an 18-month-old girl.
None of the babies are identical, which means they each came from a separate fertilized egg.
Fernando said via a translator that he worried about his wife, but added, "The worst part is over now." He hopes to take some time off from his welding job to help Guillermina through the early, sleepless nights.
Asked how the couple will manage six children, Fernando said, "You figure out a way."
His employer-provided health insurance covered most of their hospital bill. But to help them shoulder other costs, the Utah Doula Association has set up a fund, "Utah Quints through the UDA." Donations can be made at any American First Credit Union.