Identical triplets a rarity

01:46, Aug 06 2013
Wilmhurst triplets
HANDS FULL: Rachel Wilmshurst, 42, with her identical triplets, from left: Lucy Rose, Emily Charlotte and Imogen Alice.

Expectant mum Rachel Wilmshurst and her husband Nigel were advised to go and buy a Lotto ticket after a pregnancy scan revealed they would soon have three new mouths to feed.

Naturally conceiving and giving birth to identical triplets is a rarity and their fertility specialist Simon Kelly reckons they're more likely to win first division.

The Wilmshursts were in no hurry to follow through on the recommendation because in their minds they were already lucky enough.

The New Lynn residents welcomed their new babies Imogen Alice, Lucy Rose and Emily Charlotte into the world on July 7, joining an exclusive group of parents who defy odds some experts say are as high as one in 200 million.

It is more common for triplets to be born to parents undergoing fertility treatment.

Mrs Wilmshurst, 42, is also mum to five-year-old Lachlan and Harry, 3.


She found out she was pregnant again just before Christmas and had her first scan at Ascot Hospital in January.

Nothing could have prepared her for the news that followed.

"The specialist spent ages on the scan and he wasn't telling us anything," she says.

"I couldn't see the screen and kept saying ‘is everything OK?"

Another doctor was then called in to reveal the news.

"I wasn't expecting it at all, it was a real surprise," Mrs Wilmshurst says.

Identical or monozygotic triplets are formed from a single egg that splits three ways to ultimately result in embryos with the same DNA characteristics.

Mrs Wilmshurst appears to be the first member of her family to give birth to triplets though there are a few sets of twins on her father's side.

Her babies were born seven weeks premature and will be in Waitakere Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit for another three weeks.

Mrs Wilmshurst is already struggling to tell her daughters apart and relies on identification bracelets and labels attached to their cots.

She's excited to get to know their personality traits as they grow and develop their own hobbies.

"It will be interesting to see whether they'll have similar interests or be different to one another.

"I'm sure they'll get away with things or blame each other but they'll always have someone to be friends with," she says.

Waitakere Hospital is one of two administered by the Waitemata District Health Board whose clinical director for obstetrics Sue Belgrave can't recall a birth like it during her 15 years in the area.

"The fact they're identical makes them rare and the fact they've been conceived naturally makes them extraordinarily rare so this is highly exciting," she says.

Statistics New Zealand says 20 sets of triplets were born in New Zealand in 2010. The number of identical triplets is unknown.

Western Leader