65-year-old German woman pregnant with quadruplets

Doctors optimistic for Berliner Anngret Raunigk, who has 13 children already

While her colleagues look forward to retirement and a well-earned break from children, one Berlin teacher has another challenge ahead: quadruplets.

Anngret Raunigk, a 65-year-old English and Russian teacher from Berlin, already has 13 children by five different fathers. After undergoing fertility treatment, Anngret is now in her 21st week of pregnancy. She expected a baby in summer but remembers clearly watching the ultrasound screen, where four beating hearts were clearly visible.

"Of course it was a shock for me," she told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "After the doctor established that it was four, I had to think about it at first ... whether to give the children to foster parents or adoption or reduce them."

Reducing them - aborting one or more of the foetuses - would, doctors said, increase the survival rate of the others.


But the teacher wouldn't hear of it and has decided to proceed with the quadruplet pregnancy, shadowed by Germany's largest tabloid Bild and its television equivalent, RTL.

It’s a decade since Anngret had her last baby at 55, which she said happened naturally. Now Leila is nine years old, her mother said, and dearly wanted more brothers and sisters to play with.

And so, 18 months ago, she decided for fertility treatment abroad using donor eggs and sperm. The babies are due in the summer.

“I’m not afraid,” she said, “I simply assume that I will remain fit and healthy.”


Her doctor is similarly optimistic, telling Bild am Sonntag that he can see no physiological difference in this and his other younger patients in a similar situation.

"Quadruplets are always a drain," said Dr Kai Herwig, warning that a premature birth is likely. "We are doing out best to prevent this as far as possible and to push as far into the later weeks of pregnancy."

For Dr Herwig, the most important thing is not the mother-to-be’s age but her mental attitude and motivation. And Anngret is nothing if motivated, dismissing expectations of what a woman of 65 should be doing.

“I always find it very aggravating that one has to fulfil certain clichés,” she said. “I think that one has to decide for oneself, stick to one’s opinion and not allow oneself to be influenced too much by others.”

From her last pregnancy a decade ago she has plenty of experience of gossiping neighbours and, now as then, has no plans to let herself be bothered by it.

“If someone one gossips about others I think they mustn’t have a very interesting life,” she said.

And what of the years ahead? The expectant mother said she has no concerns that raising children into her 70s and 80s will be a problem.

"I have enough experience with organisation so that won't be a problem," she told the Bild am Sonntag. She has plenty of support at home: 13 children from five different fathers and seven grandchildren.

Of particular support is likely to be her eldest daughter, who’s 44.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin