Premature twins born five days apart have beaten the odds to become among the youngest to survive premature birth in Britain.
Dolly was born at just 23 weeks and one day weighing just 1lb and 1oz (482g). Five days later Albert was born weighing 1lb 6oz (624g).
The twins are now flourishing at home with parents Shona and Darren.
Dental nurse Shona Jeffery’s pregnancy had been developing as expected until she went into labour when she was just 22 weeks and six days pregnant.
After rushing to her local hospital, the couple were told that their babies were too young to save.
“They said there was nothing they could do for us and sorry that we had lost our babies as they was under the 23 weeks,” Shona told the Sun.
“They had no facilities to help if they arrived. They would just pass them to us once they had been born and they then put us in a room for this to happen.”
But, despite her waters breaking and contractions beginning, Shona did not give birth.
Then, as the clock struck midnight Darren and Shona received some hopeful news.
As Shona had reached 23 weeks – one week shy of the 24-week legal limit for abortions in England and Wales – doctors were willing to intervene and try and save the babies.
Shona was given steroids to help boost the twins’ still-growing lungs and she was sent by ambulance to Brighton Hospital.
The couple were warned that if the twins were delivered on the way to Brighton that they’d not survive the journey.
“Thankfully, we made it there fine,” Shona said.
One day later, two teams of specialists helped deliver Dolly at 23 weeks and one day.
Surprisingly, Shona’s labour stopped.
Doctors then told Shona she could deliver the second twin at any point but could also end up going full term.
However, the wait wasn’t too long.
Five days later Albert was delivered naturally, at 23 weeks and 6 days.
“That was when the real battle began. Watching them fighting for their life each day,” Shona said.
“But every day they grew a little bit more and became a little bit stronger.”
Both twins needed eye surgery and Dolly had an operation to fix a hole in her heart.
In March, Albert, the stronger of the twins was discharged from a neonatal intensive care unit and was allowed home.
And last month, to the family’s joy, Dolly also left hospital.
Darren, a landscape gardener said: “Against the odds our little miracles have survived and shocked everyone and have come home.
“Every doctor we have spoken to said we should count our lucky stars. They are just so precious to us.”
Dr Asma Khalil, a spokesman for Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association), said: “The fact that these babies are now doing well is incredible.
“Twin pregnancies delivered at 23 weeks would have far poorer chances of survival compared to a singleton pregnancy.
“Of babies born at 23-24 weeks, only about 50 per cent would survive and 50 per cent of the survivors would have some sort of disability.
“It would be fair to say that in circumstances where twins are born this early, most doctors would be preparing the family for the worst.
“So the fact these babies are now doing well, months on, is incredible.”
Last year, it was revealed that the survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.
Sadly, it is currently legal in Great Britain to abort unborn babies up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if doctors believe the baby will be born with a disability.
In 2018, the latest year with published data, 845 live births were recorded in England of babies with a gestational age of less than 24 weeks, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “It has been over a decade since abortion time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008. Since then the survival rate for premature babies has doubled.
“Our current abortion time limit, at 24 weeks, is way out of line with medical breakthroughs and the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks, making time limits an issue Parliament should urgently revisit.”“Additionally, independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below.”