A woman in the United Kingdom has undergone what is known as fetal repair surgery after learning about her baby’s diagnosis of spina bifida which is a birth defect that affects the spine.
Bethan Simpson, of Maldon, Essex, was informed in December that her unborn daughter Eloise has spina bifida. At that time, Simpson wrote on her Facebook that she was given three options, “continuing pregnancy, ending the pregnancy or a new option called fetal surgery which is fixing her before she is born.”
The 26-year-old mom chose the third option. According to BBC, this made her one of the few women in the U.K. to undergo the procedure to correct the defect. Simpson wrote on Facebook that she was the fourth woman in the country to undergo the surgery.
According to the Mayo Clinic, spina bifida occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
“It falls under the broader category of neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them,” the Mayo Clinic explains.
“But when a portion of the neural tube doesn’t develop or close properly, it causes defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the spine.”
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorder, spina bifida occurs between an estimated 1,500 and 2,000 babies out of the roughly 4 million births each year in the U.S.
The BBC reported that after Simpson and Eloise were approved for the pioneering surgery, a process which Simpson described as a roller coaster, doctors spent around four hours correcting the baby’s defect. They opened Simpson’s womb to expose Eloise’s bottom. From there, they sewed up the small gap in the baby’s lower spine and also repositioned her spinal cord.
“We were a success. Her lesion was small and she smashed surgery like you wouldn’t believe,” Simpson later wrote on Facebook.
“I’m fragile and sore but as long as she is doing fine that’s all we care about,” she continued, “They took her out of my womb and popped her straight back in to stay there as long as she can.”
Dominic Thompson, a neurosurgeon who led the surgery, told the outlet the procedure is “not a cure,” but noted that previous trials have indicated “the outlook can be a lot better with surgery early on.”
In fact, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “fetal surgery for spina bifida greatly reduces the need to divert fluid from the brain, improves mobility and improves the chances that a child will be able to walk independently.”
Simpson’s daughter is due in April and she considers her to be extra special.
“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,” she wrote.
“A Heart-touching Story Of A Baby With Down Syndrome Taking Her First Steps”