(ABC News) -- A U.K. woman has given birth to identical triplets — the ultra-rare result of a single fertilized egg dividing into three separate embryos.
Karen Gilbert, 32, delivered the girls by C-section two months early on Aug. 2. But after six weeks in intensive care, all three babies, Ffion, Maddison and Paige are home and healthy.
“It’s been crazy,” Gilbert said. “Their personalities are already starting to shine through and I can’t wait to get to know them better.”
“At first they didn’t look real and you could pick them up with one hand. It was a bit of a shock,” said dad Ian Gilbert of his girls, who weighed less than 11 pounds combined at birth. “Now we’ve got them home we are coming to terms with it. They are starting to feel like our own.”
The Gilberts, from Pontypool, U.K., already had a 3-year-old daughter, Faye. They became pregnant with the triplets while honeymooning in New York.
“At first we thought it was one, but at eight weeks I got some really bad pains,” said Karen Gilbert. “We thought it was a miscarriage but it turns out it was three babies fighting for space.”
“It has really taken its toll on Karen,” said Ian Gilbert. “Because they are identical, they all share the same placenta and the same fluid. They all grew and fought so quickly it was practically ripping Karen’s muscles apart.”
Being pregnant with multiples raises the risk of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a condition in which blood from fetus transfers to another. Despite the risk, the Gilberts refused to consider selective reduction — a procedure that aborts one or more fetuses in a multifetal pregnancy.
“We were scanned every week to make sure they were growing fine,” Ian Gilbert said.
Karen Gilbert felt pain during her last scan and went into early labor. But the triplets, while still tiny at less than 6 pounds each, are doing well.
“The pregnancy has taken its toll, but now I’m taking my time to recover and get to know my three beautiful girls,” Karen Gilbert said.