32 Babies Had Surgery to Fix Spina Bifida While Still in the Womb and are Born Healthy

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 5, 2021   |   5:57PM   |   London, England

Without a life-changing surgery in utero, Helena Purcell said her daughter Mila would be paralyzed.

Mila was diagnosed with spina bifida in the womb. Several months ago, she and her mother underwent surgery at 23 weeks of pregnancy to fix a lesion on Mila’s spine, according to CBN News.

Now an infant, her doctors said she is moving her legs and showing signs of healthy development.

Mila is one of 32 similar success stories at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, England, Live Science reports. Since January 2020, the hospital said its doctors have performed surgeries in utero on 32 unborn babies and mothers to fix problems with spina bifida.

“The procedure is complex, time-sensitive, and not without its risks, but the significant and life-changing impact on babies and their families, cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Dominic Thompson, lead neurosurgeon at the hospital. “This makes all the difference to the quality of their lives.”

The hospital typically performs the surgeries between 23 weeks and 26 weeks of pregnancy. It explained that the surgical team gives the mother and unborn baby anesthesia before making an incision through the mother’s stomach and into the uterus. Then, surgeons position the baby to work on his or her spine, fixing lesions and other problems caused by spina bifida, before stitching up the womb again, according to the hospital.

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Mila’s mother told the BBC that the doctors who performed the complex surgery on her and her daughter are heroes.

“I cannot explain the massive difference the service has had for my family,” Helena Purcell said. “The NHS doctors are heroes in my eyes, and the surgery they did is just mind-blowing. If it wasn’t for them then Mila would be paralyzed. I am just so grateful that she has had this chance.”

She said Mila can move her legs and she has feeling in her toes.

The innovative surgery is fairly new, but it already has helped hundreds of babies across the world. In December, The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health celebrated its 100th surgery on an unborn baby since it began in-utero surgeries in 2017, according to CBN News.

Still, some parents say they feel pressured to abort their unborn babies after a spina bifida diagnosis. For example, Erica and Fred Ardolino-Comparin, of Florida, said their doctors advised them to consider abortion after their daughter Harper-Mae was diagnosed with spina bifida at 18 weeks of pregnancy.

Instead, the family began to research spina bifida online, and learned about in-utero surgery. Erica and Harper-Mae underwent surgery at 25 weeks of pregnancy, and now, years later, the little girl is learning to walk and ride a bik