Women Has Ground-Breaking Surgery On Baby In Her Womb To Correct Spina Bifida Birth Defect

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A UK woman has become one of the first to have pioneering surgery on her baby’s spine while still in the womb.

26-year-old Bethan Simpson of Essex in the UK, was first told to terminate her pregnancy when doctors discovered the baby had the birth defect spina bifida during her 20-week scan.

Simpson and her husband, Kieron, refused to give up and opted for foetal repair.

This process involves doctors operating on the baby’s spinal cord while it is still in its mother’s uterus.

The surgery was a success and Simpson is now due to give birth to a baby girl in April!

Until now, the delicate operation has been mostly carried out in Belgium, where a handful of British babies have been successfully treated in recent years, with all doing really well.

Spina bifida

Spina Bifida is a fault in the development of the spine and spinal cord which leaves a gap in the spine.

About 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida each year in the US, says the CDC.

Simpson discovered her baby’s head was not the right size during a routine scan and was sent to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, where doctors diagnosed the baby with spina bifida.

‘Fast forward 48 hours and we were in London having scans on her head and spine,‘ Simpson said. ‘With that we were told our little girl had spina bifida. 

‘We were offered continuing pregnancy, ending pregnancy or a new option called foetal surgery – fixing her before she is born. We agreed to do it.’

Simpson had to undergo numerous scans and fluid tests to see if she was eligible for the operation.

The criteria for the procedure is rather strict.  The mother cannot have any placenta problems, a short cervix or an obese BMI.

‘We got approved and we planned for surgery,’ she said.

‘Our lives were such a rollercoaster for the next few weeks.’

Around 24 weeks into her pregnancy, Simpson underwent foetal repair for spina bifida and she is believed to be among the first women to have the procedure done in the UK.

‘I had the most recognised surgeons from around the world from University College London Hospital and Belgium looking after me,’ she said.

The mother to be is said to be doing well and is looking forward to welcoming her baby girl in two months’ time.

Speaking of the ordeal, she said: ‘Sadly 80 per cent of babies in England are terminated when their parents get told their baby has this condition.

‘It’s not a death sentence. She has the same potential as every one of us.

‘Yes, there are risks of things going wrong but please think more about spina bifida, it’s not what it used to be.

‘I feel our baby kick me day in and day out, that’s never changed.

‘She’s extra special, she’s part of history and our daughter has shown just how much she deserves this life.’

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