Premature twins born before legal abortion limit now flourishing at home

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.

Additionally, a recent study has revealed the majority of premature babies grow up to be healthy adults without any major health problems.

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.”

Norway restricts abortions on twins and triplets

The Norwegian Parliament voted to introduce legislation requiring women pregnant with twins, triplets or more to obtain permission from a medical board if they want to abort one foetus or more.

On the 13th June, having debated through the night, a majority in the Norwegian Parliament voted to add a minor restriction to Norway’s long-standing abortion law.

A total of 105 Members of Parliament voted in favour of the change, including members of the four government parties plus several MPs from the rural-oriented Center Party. A total of 64 MPs voted against the law proposal.

The vote followed months of debate where Prime Minister Erna Solberg (who is a supporter of abortion) was ultimately forced to make the concession on abortion in order to form her coalition government.

Under Norwegian law, abortion is available without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 18 weeks with minor restrictions. After this point, if the baby can survive outside of the womb, abortions are not permitted unless the life of the mother is in danger.

This new law in Norway requires the permission of a medical board before a woman can have an abortion if she is carrying multiple babies. This procedure is known as ‘foetal reduction’ or ‘selective termination’. If a woman is carrying twins or triplets and wants an abortion, a medical board must be consulted.

The pro-abortion leader of Norway’s Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre, strongly opposed the new law, apparently amidst concerns about Alabama’s new pro-life legislation making its way to Norway. Per-Willy Amundsen, a conservative MP, called the “adjustments” to the law “completely natural and defensible changes. They address some ethical problems that are relevant to the highest degree.”

The decision went against the advice of some doctors, who claim that the procedure may carry risks for the health of both the mother and the remaining baby.  

“We have not found any medical benefit from this,” Dr Birgitte Heiberg Kahrs, a specialist in fetal medicine at St Olav’s Hospital in Oslo. “On the contrary, it exposes the second child in the womb to danger as the abortion risk increases.”  

“Our recommendation was that this should only be allowed for twins if one fetus showed developmental abnormalities, and that it should be done between weeks 12 and 14 to reduce the abortion risk.”  

Multifetal pregnancies are becoming increasingly common as a result of IVF treatments, although selective reduction is more commonly carried out when there are three or more fetuses. 

Clare McCarthy of Right To Life said:

“In England and Wales in 2018, there were 111 foetal reduction abortions out of a total of 200,608 abortions. Over the same time period in Norway there were in 12,380 abortions. If similar proportions of women seek foetal reduction in Norway, it is likely therefore that the number of women seeking foetal reduction abortions is extremely small, probably less than 10.

“This is an extremely minor concession which will affect a tiny number of pregnancies, but does have the potential to save the lives of babies.  We therefore welcome this change and hope that it is seen by Norway as a starting point for the introduction of further protections for unborn children and more support for pregnant mothers.”