Most children born to one woman: Who has the most kids in the world?

There are some pretty crazy stories throughout history, but few are as intriguing as the story of a 1700s peasant girl who gave birth to more children than ever recorded in human history. Let's dive in.

There are some extraordinary tales to be told, but the woman is one of the most fascinating.
There are some extraordinary tales to be told, but the woman is one of the most fascinating.  © Unsplash/Ben Wicks

The largest number of children ever to be born by one woman is a truly fascinating record that's worthy of your time. Not only is this a story of multiple triplets, but a number of quadruplets, and a healthcare system that was – quite literally – non-existent. Curious, isn't it?

So let's dive into the world of 1700s Russia, and take a look at a world record holder like no other. Who had the most children born to one woman? Who had the most kids in the world? Let's find out!

Most children born to one woman

By the time she died, Valentina Vassilyev is thought to have mothered 69 children. It's at this stage that we should take note of the somewhat questionable historical sources we have on the matter. All records relating to this extraordinary feat are in relation to Valentina's husband, Feodor, and it's even dubious that Valentina's name is even correct in itself.

What is clear, however, is that Feodor Vassilyev was a lower-class man who lived from 1707 to 1782 in Shuya, Russia. He had two wives, having 69 children with his first (Valentina) and 18 more with his second wife (who remains unidentified). Over the course of 27 births, 16 twins, seven triplets, and four quadruplets were born. Interestingly, it seems that no single children were actually born.

While quoting a letter quoted by The Gentleman's Magazine in 1783, the claim is made, relating to all of Feodor's children, that "in all, 35 births, 87 children, of which 84 are living and only three buried." Further literature provided to Guinness World Records before they decried Valentina Vassilyev as a world record breaker, confirmed this information.

How could this even be possible, though? Well, in a 2015 article by Adam Hadhazy, published by the BBC, this exact question is dived into. After consulting a number of experts and looking at the mathematic viability of such a feat, especially in the 1700s, Hadhazy seemed rather dubious about whether this was even within the realm of possibility.

As a result, the question soon becomes, "Hang on, how could Guinness World Records have got this one wrong?" Well, official documents claim that this did, indeed, happen. While it seems unlikely, freak things sometimes happen, and it does seem that multiple newspapers, official documents, and a man in his seventies would lie about something so bizarre. Wouldn't they have had something better to do?

Who were Valentina and Feodor Vassilyev?

Valentina's true name and identity have been lost to the annals of history, but Feodor Vassilyev was a Russian man born into the countries peasant class in the early 1700s. After two wives and an insane number of children, his story was passed on to local newspapers across Russia and have since become folk legend.

Fascinatingly, records reported to Moscow by the Monastery of Nikolsk on February 27, 1782, confirm these tales. Even more strangely, the report claims that only two of the children born by Valentina died in infancy. Considering the child mortality rates at the time, this is incredibly unlikely. Not quite as unlikely as Valentina surviving so many births, though, to be fair!

It's a bit of an ask for a mother to give birth to more than one, maybe two, babies at a time.
It's a bit of an ask for a mother to give birth to more than one, maybe two, babies at a time.  © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

Most babies born to one woman at once

According to Guinness World Records, the record for most babies born to one woman at once is held by a Malian woman who gave birth to nine babies in May 2021. Incredibly, this record is also the first ever recorded incident of nonuplets being born alive and healthy.

Hospitalized for going into early labor, Halima Cisse was flown from Mali to Casablanca in Morocco for specialist care, due to her condition. After the birth, the specialty clinic's director, Youssef Alaoui, confirmed that nine babies had been born and they were all safe, healthy, and happy. Extraordinary!

The woman with the most kids lived surprisingly long!

For a woman who gave birth to 69 kids, Valentina Vassilyev certainly lived a long and successful life. You have to remember that, in the 1700s, there wasn't any such thing as "healthcare," and medicine was incredibly limited compared to the modern day. Valentina lived until she was 76 despite going through the dangers of childbirth many, many times. That, in itself, is impressive!

There have been many extraordinary stories throughout history, and even unconfirmed reports of women who bore even more children than Valentina Vassilyev, but this is one of the most remarkable!

Cover photo: Unsplash/Ben Wicks

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