A mum was told to say goodbye to her premature twins after they were born when she was just 25 weeks pregnant.

Alex Grice, then 19, felt like "something was wrong" while she was preparing to go to Turkey and examinations revealed she was 6cm dilated.

Only 25 weeks and 5 days into her pregnancy, she had to give birth, but the babies were so small she couldn't feel the contractions, she said.

Archie and Ava were born weighing 1lb 12oz and 1lb 9oz and both had holes in their hearts, so they were whisked off and put on life support in ICU.

The Bolton News: Alex Grice with her twins Archie and Ava

The tiny tots - born the size of her hand - were wrapped in 'plastic bags' to keep them warm.

Alex and partner Declan Real were told to say goodbye to Ava because doctors didn't think she would make it through the night.

The Bolton News: Baby Ava

But after 126 days in hospital the tots came home and are now settling into their first year at school - something Alex feared they'd never get to experience.

Alex, head of organic content at an advertising agency, from Ramsbottom, said: "I just felt like I couldn't name them because I didn't know if they were going to survive.

"So they were labelled twin one and twin two.

"They had to be taken straight to the neonatal unit. We weren't allowed to see them, touch them, hold them.

"They put them in this almost plastic-bag like thing to keep their bodies warm because they couldn't regulate their own body temperature and they were rushed away.

"It's one of those feelings I just can't describe. It was so numbing. It was so empty and it just felt like nothing.

"I wasn't upset or screaming or crying, just empty. It felt like the complete opposite of what we had envisioned."

Alex saw nurses because she felt unusual in July 2019.

She was told to take paracetamol but when that didn't ease her pain, doctors carried out an examination and found that she was 6cm dilated.

She gave birth at Royal Bolton Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit on July 9.

"The doctor said the babies are coming, they're coming now," Alex said.

"And my response was, 'well they can't come now because I'm going on holiday tomorrow'."

The teenager had been preparing to go to Turkey for a "babymoon" when her waters broke.

"I was rushed down to theatre and it was all hands on deck," she said.

Ava was born at 11.14am and Archie at 12.18pm, although Alex couldn't bring herself to name the twins when they first arrived.

The Bolton News: Alex Grice with her twins Archie and Ava

After the babies were incubated, put on life support and hooked up to feeding tubes, Alex and her family were able to visit.

"We went down to see them for the first time and that was just the most harrowing experience ever," she said.

"I had never seen a baby that small.

"Their whole bodies were probably the length of my hand. Their whole hand was smaller than my fingertip.

"They didn't look like they would be able to survive.

"And then I think because they were so gravely ill they asked do you want the priest to come down and baptise them.

"I was actually put back onto the labour ward and obviously everybody on the labour ward had just given birth so I was back in a room of healthy, crying babies and mums, but with no children.

"The doctors rang and said you need to come back and say goodbye. We don't think Ava's going to make it through the night."

Ava had been struggling to keep her oxygen saturation levels up and even with the help of a life support machine, she was struggling.

Ava recovered but six weeks later she suffered a bleed on the brain and her life was in danger again.

She was finally discharged on October 17 2019 and and Archie followed on November 12 2019.

They had oxygen at home for a year but are now totally healthy, and doing well at school.

The Bolton News: Alex Grice with her partner Declan Real and their twins Archie and Ava

To raise awareness and money, Alex, and her mother-in-law, Nicola Orrell, hold a charity ball every year.

Now in its fourth year, the charity ball will take place on November 18, known as World Prematurity Awareness Month, at the Last Drop Village Hotel in Bolton.

The Bolton News: Alex Grice with her Archie

The team are hoping to raise £25,000 which will be split between Bolton Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, housing charity The Ronald McDonald House and Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

To donate, visit justgiving.com and search 'world prematurity glitter'.