South East Wales

Identical triplets born against odds in Pontypool

Karen Gilbert and her triplets
Image caption Karen Gilbert says the triplets's different personalities are emerging

A woman has beaten odds of 160,000 to one to give birth to identical triplet girls.

Ffion, Maddison and Paige Gilbert, who were conceived naturally from one egg, are now at home in Pontypool in Torfaen after spending six weeks in hospital.

Their parents, Karen and Ian, said they had been offered a termination during the pregnancy because of the risks to both mother and babies.

Now aged eight weeks old the girls are healthy and thriving.

Mrs Gilbert said she and her husband, who already have a three-year-old daughter called Faye, went through a range of emotions after finding out they were to become parents to triplets.

They had gone to hospital after Mrs Gilbert, 32, experienced pain eight weeks into her pregnancy - and a scan showed three heart beats.

"We were just very shocked," she said.

"The lady doing the scan had to call somebody else into the room to check what she was seeing was right.

"We pretty much left the hospital laughing, crying, laughing, crying... But we were over the moon."

The couple were offered the chance to either terminate the pregnancy or attempt to reduce the number of babies.

"The risks were so high to me and the babies because they shared a placenta," said Mrs Gilbert.

"There was the chance of twin to twin syndrome, where one baby can starve the other two babies of food and other fluids.

"But we just couldn't do it. The babies are ours."

The girls were born safe on 2 August at 30 weeks at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport. Ffion weighed 3lb 8oz, Maddison was 3lb 5oz and Paige weighed 3lb 4oz.

Image caption A scan shows the three babies sharing the one placenta

While they were all healthy, the babies were kept in the neonatal unit for a week to continue to grow before being transferred closer to home at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, for another five weeks.

Now, the couple are getting used to caring for three newborns along with their toddler daughter.

Despite the constant demands of changing of nappies and feeds - which they share between themselves every four hours day and night - one of the biggest challenges is telling the triplets apart.

"We kept their hospital bands on for as long as they could but they grew out of them, so Ian had to buy more on eBay and we're still using them," said Mrs Gilbert, who is on maternity leave from her job as an administration assistant.

"They're that identical, it's scary. But their own personalities are starting to show. Maddison, for example, is the sleepy one and not really bothered.

"Whereas Paige and Ffion are the nosy ones."

Image caption Ian Gilbert is a little outnumbered with triplet girls and another daughter

She said they had bought a larger car last week and had had to search online for a special triplet pushchair as they are unavailable to buy in the UK. They are also considering extending their three-bedroom house into the attic.

Daily costs are also adding up, with the family getting through about 40 nappies a day.

"Thankfully, we have been given six months of formula milk on prescription from the hospital and friends have been brilliant giving us things like car seats and bin bags full of clothes.

"Saying that, I know things will get more demanding and expensive, such as having to buy all their school uniforms and shoes."

But that has not put off Mr Gilbert, who has been able to take leave from his job at his own firm until Christmas, from wanting more children in the future.

"Ian would like to try for a boy as he's a bit outnumbered," added Mrs Gilbert.

"But I'm not persuaded. I'm happy with what I've got."

Jane Denton, director of the Multiple Births Foundation, said the birth of identical triplets was very rare, at odds of about 160,000 to one.

She added there are possibly about four sets per year in England and Wales.

Image caption Faye Gilbert has been helping her parents to look after the triplets

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