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Twins born more than five weeks apart thanks to ‘rare technique’

Kristen and Ian Miller admire their newborn twins at the NICU of University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. WBIR

Doctors in Tennessee are celebrating a medical “coup” after delivering twins 38 days apart.

The first twin, Micah Miller, made his debut on Valentine’s Day — nearly four months early. He made it just a day past 24 weeks, which doctors say is the youngest a premature baby can be born to have a chance of survival outside the womb.

Kristen Miller’s water broke at 22 weeks. She was at church when her contractions and panic set in.

“She called me hysterical,” her husband Ian Miller recalled to NBC affiliate WBIR.

Thankfully doctors managed to stop her labour and hold it off for two more crucial weeks, using a variety of treatments and drugs.

READ MORE: Test could tell if early contractions means woman to deliver

Following a complicated delivery of the first baby, during which there were apparently “18 people in the operating room,” doctors tried to figure out the best way forward.

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“Just because we’re having one [baby] doesn’t mean we have to have the second or the third. But it’s hard to find the person who’s a really good candidate,” Dr. Kristina Shumard, a Maternal Fetal Medicine obstetrician at UT Medical Center, told WBIR.

She explained the option of delayed internal delivery to the Millers. It can only work with fraternal twins because they have their own sacs and placentas, which allows them to be born at different times.

Staying in the womb for as long as possible allows the baby to “further develop and gro… and increase the chances of… survival,” according to Tufts Medical Centre.

The Boston hospital pulled off the procedure in 2014 with a set of twins born 24 days apart (in different seasons and under different zodiac signs).

The medical staff in that instance explained there’s “a brief window of opportunity” where the mother’s labour slows down. There can’t be any signs of infection or heavy bleeding, and the amniotic sac of the second baby can’t break.

Miller met that criteria, but doctors still tried to keep her expectations low. They initially thought the second baby might come within the hour. So every extra day came as a surprise, and each one made a difference.

The new mom was put on super strict bed rest. She wasn’t even allowed to hold her firstborn son for the first three weeks.

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Five-and-a-half weeks later, her second child (a little girl) joined him.

“Madeline is breathing on her own and growing in the same room as her brother,” the new mom said.

READ MORE: Heart-warming video shows premature babies holding hands

The family-of-four will probably be at the hospital for another couple months, something they don’t seem to mind.

“We feel so blessed to be here,” she added.

According to the Washington Post, doctors told the couple that theirs was the longest interval delivery they could remember at UT Medical.

“It certainly felt like such a coup for all of us,” hospital director Kimberly Fortner said. “It’s been amazing and exciting!”

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