THESE adorable triplets are a picture of joy - but they came as a huge surprise to their parents.

When student Chloe Bates began feeling poorly she never suspected she might be 10-weeks pregnant, but once confirmation came through she was in for an even bigger surprise when her scan at 14 weeks revealed she was expecting three babies.

Although only in the second year of her Business and Management BA (Hons) degree at the University of Sunderland, 20-year-old Chloe decided to continue her studies, until Jaxon, Alana and Aria were born on November 26.

Giving birth to triplets naturally is rare, about 1 in 4,400 in the UK, and left Chloe in hospital three weeks before the births with pre-eclampsia.

The babies also had to spend time in neonatal intensive care at Sunderland Royal Hospital when they were born prematurely at 33 weeks.

Despite their rocky start, all babies got a clean bill of health and were all home in time for Christmas. Remarkably, Chloe was also keen to return to her studies, with partner Dylon Freeman, 21, taking a break from work to raise his new family.

Chloe, of Sulgrave, Washington, said: “It has been quite a shock and was definitely not yet part of the plan but the triplets are absolutely lovely and now they’re here we are adjusting to life as a family as best we can, but they’ve been no bother. "Dylon has been a great support. Luckily, we also have very supportive family and friends, who are all helping out, although my mam did not believe me at first and thought I was winding her up until I showed her the scan.

"There are no twins or triplets in either side of our families, so this is a very rare occurrence. I also never really showed throughout the pregnancy as I’m quite small anyway.”

Chloe, who refuses to give up on her career ambitions to one day run her own bar and restaurant, added: “I managed to return to university recently, and I’m catching up with the course work, but everyone understands my ‘extenuating circumstances’ and my lecturers have been great.”

Jaxon was the first to arrive at 3lb 8ozs, followed by Alana weighing 3lbs 13ozs and finally Aria made an appearance at 2lbs 13ozs. Aria also had to spend two extra days in hospital until she was ready to go home.

Chloe said: “They were on four hourly feeds at first and it was becoming exhausting, but we’ve begun bottle feeding and it’s making life a little more manageable. We are also just catching sleeps in between.

"It’s tiring, but they are actually lovely little babies, so we feel very lucky they are healthy and happy. However, we are definitely not planning any more, just yet.”

Dr Paul-Alan Armstrong, senior lecturer in HRM and Leadership at the university said: “As programme leader I have a great deal of admiration for Chloe’s determination and personal motivation to continue with her studies.

“The University, through its supportive environment of staff, students and the community is the ideal place for Chloe to fulfil her dreams of being and becoming an authentic graduate."