Laura Watson was asked if she wanted an abortion because her twins “were effectively killing each other in the womb.”
“Nothing can prepare you to hear doctors give terminating your pregnancy as a suggestion,” said Watson, 29. “I wasn’t given any good choices. I was terrified — everything happened so fast.”
Watson was diagnosed with a rare condition known as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome in which blood flows unequally between identical twins who share a placenta.
When TTTS occurs, the “donor twin” shares too much blood from the placenta with the “recipient twin,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
As a result, the donor twin doesn’t receive enough nourishment. Meanwhile, the recipient twin receives too much, and his or her body is overworked, as it has to process too much blood.
It’s estimated 6% to 15% of identical twin pregnancies develop TTTS, and the reason why is a mystery — there’s no known genetic or familial predisposition to TTTS. The condition doesn’t occur with fraternal twins.
Watson was so concerned about the health of her twins that she refused to shop for baby clothes, after being told her twins were unlikely to survive.
Indeed, about 90% of twins diagnosed in the late stages of TTTS who don’t receive medical treatment die before birth.
However, with timely medical treatment, at least one twin survives TTTS about 90% of the time.
Watson, from Northern Ireland, flew to St. George’s Hospital in London for a procedure designed to help evenly distribute blood flow and nutrients between the twins.
“I was told I could do nothing and most likely lose both of them or have a surgery with a 30% survival rate,” Watson told South West News Service. Doctors asked if she wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
”But I couldn’t do that, I had to give them a both a chance,” she added. “I never dreamed I’d get to bring them both home after what we went through.
“So I decided to operate, even though that was extremely risky as well,” Watson said.
Surgeons performed an intrauterine laser ablation surgery, which disconnects blood vessels in order to more evenly distribute nutrients to each of the twins, according to experts at Johns Hopkins Center for Fetal Therapy.
But soon, doctors at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital, in Belfast, Ireland, discovered that one twin was still dangerously anemic due to a lack of blood.
After an emergency C-section, the first twin, Meabh, was delivered weighing 1 lbs, 6oz, on October 3, 2022. The second twin, Clodagh, was born a minute later weighing 2 lbs, 8oz.
Despite spending months in the hospital following their birth, both twins are now thriving.
”[N]ow they are here, and they are happy, and I still can’t believe it,” said Watson, who also has a 3-year-old son with her partner, James Weir.
“The first few months was very stressful. We had to balance spending time with our 3-year-old and still have to take constant trips to the hospital.”
“We struggled a lot, mentally and financially, but as parents you just do it,” Watson continued. “They’re a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”