Liverpool Women’s is set to feature in a new two-part documentary on ITV this month. The Triplets Are Coming! was filmed at three hospitals across the UK, including the specialist multiple birth clinic at Liverpool Women’s Fetal Medicine Unit, and will be shown at 9pm on ITV on Thursday 19th and 26th March.
The episodes will follow couples expecting twins and triplets through the final stages of their pregnancy and as they adjust to life with their new babies.
The number of multiple births has almost doubled in the last 30 years. Doctors attribute this rise, in part, to changing lifestyles and the rising use of assisted reproduction techniques, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
With around 200 sets of triplets born every year in Britain, this brand new, two part, intimate, sensitive and joyous documentary series, allows viewers a unique insight into the journey faced by couples expecting three babies at once. With exclusive access to the multiple birth clinic at University College Hospital in London, the programme captures the highs and lows experienced during a multiple pregnancy and the medical challenges facing the couples.
Women carrying more than one baby face a higher risk and more unpredictable pregnancy. They are scanned every week or two for their entire term, to monitor any potential complications and doctors are poised to intervene if problems develop. Expectant couples sometimes face agonizing decisions to protect the health of their babies.
Sophisticated medical expertise means that, despite the risks, most triplets are delivered safely. The programme then follows the families, after their babies are born, as they deal with the next challenge of looking after them. Sleep becomes a distant memory and mothers-in-law are forced to come riding to the rescue.
Tracy and Paul Kirby, conceived naturally and were astonished when a scan revealed they were expecting three babies. At their 23 week scan, they are shocked to discover that one of the triplets has stopped growing properly. Their doctor believes two of the babies may be suffering from ‘twin-to-twin transfusion’ where an uneven blood supply means one is getting too big, while the other remains too small.
The couple are left with an agonising decision between two treatments. They can opt for a laser operation to correct the bloody supply, which carries risks to all the babies. Or the medical team can perform a selective reduction, which means terminating the weakest baby. They decide on the laser operation, to try and save their smallest triplet.
Tracy explains why they decided against a selective reduction: “I don’t think I could do it. I remember a friend telling me that he believes in nature and nature will tell you what to do. And while they are all fighting, it doesn’t seem right.”
In Liverpool, Miraz and Selma Yolcu are about to meet their babies. The lack of space in the womb means that triplets are always born prematurely and Selma is about to have her babies delivered by caesarean section, at 34 weeks.
After the successful operation, the couple are relieved that their babies have arrived safely. However, all three are about half the weight of a normal newborn and are taken a neonatal ward, where they will be kept separately in a warm chamber and monitored around the clock. They are also tube fed until they are big enough to begin breast or bottle feeding, in a few weeks’ time.
Once home, the hard work really begins. Selma’s mother comes over from Turkey to help the couple take care of their newborns.
Miraz admits: "We couldn’t cope with them, just the two of us. So we had to invite my mother-in-law to come over here to look after them. If she wasn’t here we wouldn’t be coping with them at all."
Steph and Chris Webb have been desperately trying to have a family for nearly 7 years. After 2 years of failing to conceive naturally, it has taken a further 5 years of IVF treatment for them to finally fall pregnant. At 26 weeks pregnant, they visit the hospital for their next scan but the news is not good. One of the babies is not growing at the rate the medical team would hope for and their blood supply is looking abnormal. Steph will be closely monitored and their doctor hopes the situation remains stable until the babies reach a size where they have a very good chance of surviving outside the womb.
Every year at our Fetal Medicine Unit we have around 6000 appointments where we deliver care to many families and their unborn babies. We are a leading centre providing fetal medicine not only across Liverpool and the North West, but as far a field as Wales, West Midlands and the Isle of Man. Our of highly skilled consultants, midwives and support staff are l completely dedicated and committed to ensuring families have expert advice and support during their often stressful pregnancy journey.
What do we do?
We use sophisticated equipment to aid the diagnosis and treatment of a range of conditions detected in the womb includingheart and brain defects, spina bifida, growth and genetic problems. We also run busy multiple birth and preterm birth prevention clinics in which we provide a one stop service for families expecting twins and triplets and those who experiences preterm birth in previous pregnancy. Our care does not stop there; we also arrange specialist clinics with other medical teams such as neurosurgeons, paediatricians and cardiologists who can help families understand sometimes very complex issues and treatments which they may have with their babies. We also undertake lots of research to aid the detection and treatment of certain conditions.
What do we need?
We are trying to raise funds to redesign our unit so it matches the excellent standards of care that we provide. The refurbishment will mean creating a new, family friendly unit which will accommodate extra counselling facilities where families can discuss their individual care needs in a calm and relaxed environment. This redesign will allow us to increase capacity and provide even more specialist advice and treatments in a timely and family friendly manner.