Twins are 'happy and comfortable'

Siamese twins: Doctors optimistic about babies' chances of survival as father is overwhelmed by 'beautiful' daughters
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The first Siamese twins to be born to a British mother in nearly 10 years were "perfectly happy and comfortable" and no problems had developed yesterday after they were born by Caesarean section late on Thursday night.

Tests are still being carried out on the girls, Chloe and Nicole, but the consultant paediatric surgeon, Alan Dickson, who is in charge of their care said he was "optimistic about their survival chances".

The first reaction of their father Brian Astbury after the birth at St Mary's Hospital was to say: "They are beautiful". Their mother Melanie, 25, was making a satisfactory recovery.

Mr Astbury, a 26-year-old electrician from Denton, Manchester, told the family solicitor, Andrea McWatt: "It's great."

"When I first saw him immediately after [the birth] he seemed overwhelmed, as one would expect. Certainly he seemed relieved." Ms McWatt said. "Later he had actually cuddled the babies and was smiling even more."

Although the dark-haired twins are joined from the breast-bone to the navel they can move their heads without difficulty.

The girls were the fifth pregnancy involving Siamese twins seen by St Mary's in the past five years. Two couples decided to terminate their pregnancies and two others - both from abroad - were delivered but subsequently died.

The Astbury twins were delivered by consultant obstetrician Dr Michael Maresh, with three doctors, three anaesthetists and two midwives present in the theatre. The children were immediately handed to a resuscitation team who took over their care. Both cried within an hour of being born.

Alan Dickson, who led the foetal therapy team, said they were in "relatively good condition. One required some help with her breathing for a short period of time but this was not a particularly difficult problem."

Doctors took the decision to perform the Caesarean after Mrs Astbury, who was in her 36th week, had intermittent contractions during the day.

Mr Dickson said he hoped the children would eventually be able to lead normal lives but warned that antenatal scans of the two girls might not have shown all their abnormalities and problems. Before the birth he said that surgeons hoped to separate them in their first year of life.

Last year an operation was carried out successfully at Great Ormond Street Hospital on three-month-old Italian girls, similarly joined from the chest to abdomen and sharing a liver and upper small bowel.

Asked about the twins' chances of survival, Mr Dickson said: "I think it is very speculative and perhaps harmful for the general good to speak specifically about figures, but we genuinely feel optimistic about their survival chances."