Miracle triplets: A 'one in 300,000' chance
TINY Isabelle, Amelia and Georgia Barfield are Queensland's toughest triplets, the odds well and truly stacked against them.
North Queensland medical experts told Katie and Nathan Barfield their little miracles were a one-in-300,000 chance of being conceived.
The girls, identical triplets born at 32 weeks, are the first 'monochorionic triamniotic' triplets (three identical babies sharing the one placenta) Townsville doctors had delivered in at least 15 years.
There were amplified risks that were dangerous for the babies, with prematurity being the main one, AMA Queensland president Dr Bill Boyd said.
The couple, from Mackay, moved to Townsville before the birth of their son, Michael, now 19 months, who was diagnosed with moderate to severe cerebral palsy. He requires medical care provided in Townsville.
Looking to add to their little family and falling pregnant naturally, Katie had gone for a dating scan while little Michael was in hospital with bronchitis. That's when the doctors told her "there's not one, not two but three". Alone at the scan, she rushed back to share the news with her husband, who was looking after their son in hospital.
Excitement soon gave way to concern. Katie's doctor told her the babies would be the first identical triplets they had seen in 15 years, but with that came risks.
"We were already high risk because they were identical triplets, but we were told they were super high risk because they were all sharing the same placenta," she said.
Doctors asked if the couple wanted to terminate, because of the dangers, and whether it was something the family wanted because they "already had a very special child", Katie said.
There was another option of a 'reduction', a procedure where one or more babies are terminated to give the other/s a stronger chance of survival.
"(But) there would've been the chance to kill them all (because they shared the same placenta)," Katie said.
Dr Boyd said when two babies shared a placenta, they sometimes resulted in "one baby which thrives off the other".
"So often we'll see one big twin and one small scrawny twin... the risk of this increases with triplets sharing the one sac," he explained.
Katie said the first 6-12 weeks were the hardest - the "worrying period" of not knowing if all three babies would make it.
At her 12-week scan she thought she saw only two babies and prepared for the worst - until the nurse discovered the third and she realised all three were healthy.
The couple continued the pregnancy.
Katie said there was trepidation going into each ultrasound as time went on, as the 16-24 weeks was the risky stage for developing triplet to triplet transfusion syndrome (TTTS) but no serious red flags had been raised.
One of the triplets developed a growth restriction and had to fight to be fed, but the young parents remained positive.
By the time Katie hit 24 weeks she said her doctor "broke a smile".
An overwhelming wave of relief, Katie said her three girls were doing so well the doctor said they could have made it to 34 weeks.
Katie gave birth on March 19, at 32 weeks, at the Townsville General Hospital to Isabelle (2.2kg), Amelia (2.1kg) and Georgia (1.67kg).
Isabelle and Amelia have been taken out of their humidicribs and are on feeding tubes. Katie hopes Georgia will follow them soon.
"We always wanted more children, about three to four, but we just happen to have four under two now," Katie laughed.
"We didn't expect them all at once."
To help the family out with additional costs visit: https://www.gofundme.com/barfield-triplets