A couple has thanked hospital staff at St George’s Twins Trust centre for saving her babies lives at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nichola and husband Pete were thrilled to discover that they were having twins, two little brothers for their son Sebastian.

But at 18 weeks a scan picked up a 22% difference in the twins’ sizes and two weeks later a 29% difference.

After a further scan at 24 weeks, their consultant at Southampton Hospital referred them to St George’s, to receive support at their Twins Trust Centre.

Last year, the hospital partnered with National charity, Twins Trust, to carry out new research, provide support and education into multiple births across the UK.

Vital research is carried out by Professor Asma Khalil, Consultant Obstetrician and Multiple Birth Lead at St George’s and her team.

Wandsworth Times: Nichola with her sons Leo and Asher Nichola with her sons Leo and Asher

"Asma saved our babies’ lives, there’s no doubt about that,” said.Nichola Luther, whose twin boys were born on April 4, 2020.

Professor Asma Khalil diagnosed Nichola's twins with TAPS, which is an uncommon condition that occurs in 3-5% of identical twin pregnancies.

It occurs when small blood vessels form in the placenta between the babies, allowing a slow passage of blood from one baby to the other.

This results in one twin becoming very anaemic (very low blood count) and the other polycythaemic (very high blood count).

This can lead to extra strain on the heart in both babies, which can make one or both babies unwell and can even be fatal in some circumstances.

“Asma was very calm and reassuring, speaking to us about options but at this point one of the twins, Asher, was showing signs of cardiac distress so we had to be quick with our decision,” said Nichola.

Wandsworth Times: Asher James Asher James

“As TAPS is so rare there is not much evidence on outcomes but we knew we had to have the laser surgery or lose one or possibly both babies.”

Nichola underwent a fetoscopic laser procedure to treat her babies, which involved inserting a camera into the womb, then using a laser to seal off the blood vessels that had been allowing blood to leak from one baby to the other.

After the successful laser surgery, Nichola was closely monitored and advised to stay home. She was told to only leave the house for scans and check-ups, but at 28 weeks her waters broke.

Nichola was examined and a decision was made for her to stay in hospital. A few days later, at 29 weeks Nichola’s twins were born via emergency c-section.

The precious babies were named Asher, who weighed 2lbs10 and Leo, who weighed a mere 1lb15.

Wandsworth Times: Leo Joseph Leo Joseph

Nichola is passionate about raising awareness of TAPS and also wants mums to be reassured by her story.

“TAPS really is incredibly rare and I hope that across the country fetal medicine teams, as well as all health practitioners who deal with multiple births, will continue to learn more about the condition through the excellent work of Asma and her team at the centre which will lead to saving more babies like Asher and Leo.

“With a simple test TAPS can be detected, but it’s not routine.

"We were lucky as we were in the right knowledgeable hands but lots of babies still aren’t, due to the syndrome being relatively new and lack of education on the subject.

"Asma and her team will help change this. Thank you Asma for saving our babies, we will be forever grateful.”

The Twins Trust Centre for Research and Clinical Excellence has now been opened for one year.