A baby girl in England is doing well inside her mother’s womb after doctors performed an innovative new procedure to fix a hole in her spine.
The baby’s mother, Bethan Simpson, of Burnham, Essex, chose to undergo the surgery in December instead of aborting her unborn baby, as doctors suggested, Yahoo News reports.
“We were offered continuing pregnancy, ending pregnancy or a new option called fetal surgery – fixing her before she is born. We had to do it. Our lives were such a rollercoaster for the next few weeks,” Simpson wrote on Facebook.
She and her husband, Kieron, learned that there was something wrong with their unborn daughter during a 20-week pregnancy scan. Doctors later diagnosed her with spina bifida, according to the report.
Simpson told the BBC that she refused to consider an abortion because she “couldn’t justify terminating a child I could feel kicking.”
In December, they became the fourth mother-child pair to undergo fetal surgery to repair spina bifida in the UK, the report states. Doctors from University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London removed the baby girl from her mother’s womb at 24 weeks of pregnancy and repaired a hole in her spinal cord, according to the report. Then, they placed her back in the womb.
“I came out of surgery at one o’clock and could feel her moving that evening,” Simpson said. “It was reassuring to feel that first kick after the anaesthetic wore off.”
Simpson said the lesion on her daughter’s spine was small, and doctors deemed the surgery a success. While she is sore and fragile, she said the risks were worth it to give her daughter a better life.
Other babies are not so fortunate. About 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted, according to the BBC. Even though fetal surgery is becoming more widely available and more successful, many mothers still choose abortion.
Medical professionals warn parents that the surgery is risky and it does not cure spina bifida. However, fetal surgery can greatly lessen the severity of the disease. In 2003, the National Institute of Health’s Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) found that closing the spinal defect in utero reduced the need for shunts after birth and boosted the child’s chances of walking independently. Doctors think fetal surgery also may reduce the odds of learning disabilities.
Last year, the New York Times profiled a Texas infant who underwent the surgery and was born kicking and screaming. Doctors said baby Royer’s outlook appears extremely good.
With a growing number of success stories to point to, Simpson urged parents to choose life for babies with spina bifida.
“There are unknowns – it’s major surgery, and the biggest decision you’ll make in your life,” she said. “But remember most children born with spina bifida today are walking and reaching normal milestones.
“Yes, there are risks of things going wrong but please think more about spina bifida, it’s not what it used to be,” she continued. “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.”