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Dr Penman – My Premature Triplets is an emotive article from Dr Penman, a fetal medicine specialist. Readers may find some of the content of this post distressing. Dr Penman would like to remind others that this is his account of his own experiences and does not necessarily reflect what other parents of premature babies might encounter.

My wife and I with our triplets in 1992

The triplets’ birth

In 1992, my wife Helen and I welcomed premature triplets – two girls and one boy – who were born at 27 weeks of pregnancy. The triplets each weighed less than 2lbs – an average baby born full-term weighs between 7-9 lbs.

Whilst we did expect that our triplets would be born before they reached full-term, we weren’t expecting them to come quite as early as they did, at 27 weeks; In the UK about 8% of births occur prematurely. Of this number only 5% occur before 28 weeks, 10% occur between 28-32 weeks and 85% occur between 32-37 weeks. The cause of premature birth is often unknown but there are number of risk factors including being pregnant with more than one baby.

My wife and I with our premature triplets outside St Thomas’ Hospital, London in Spring 1992

Some health problems

After he was born, our son suffered a haemorrhage in the motor cortex of his brain which led to him later being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. One of our daughters had a haemorrhage in the brain ventricles and later developed hydrocephalus. This, thankfully, resolved on its own without the need for medical intervention.

One of our daughters shortly after she was born

The triplets’ homecoming

At the end of August 1992, our triplets finally came home. This was a particularly poignant time, as it was around their original due date. Whilst our son remained on 24-hour oxygen for another year after this, we focused on the fact that he was healthy enough to be home with us and his sisters.

All three triplets finally at home together in August 1992

Coping with premature babies

The birth of our triplets was a very difficult time. For a while, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether or not they would live. Even after they were out of critical care, it remained to be seen how they would thrive. We tried not to think too much about the “what ifs” and focused on what we could know – that each and every day with our babies signalled another day that they were growing and fighting.

My wife with our triplets in the Intensive Care Unit of St Thomas’ Hospital, London

26 years on and our plans for this year’s World Prematurity Day

Our triplets are now grown up; our daughters are married and working, and our son is studying for his PhD. One of my daughters is expecting her own baby early next year.

As this year’s World Prematurity Day falls on a Saturday, I will be holding my usual Saturday baby scan and gynaecology clinics in Kent all day. In the evening, my wife and I will be having dinner with our triplets and their families, grateful for the fact they are all here today.

The whole Penman family together

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