An unborn baby has been removed from its mother’s womb for treatment then put back in a groundbreaking operation.
The procedure was carried out on Bethan Simpson’s child after tests revealed it had spina bifida.
Mrs Simpson, 26, a nurse from Burnham, Essex, and her husband Kieron had been given the option to terminate the pregnancy before they learned of the procedure.
She became one of only a handful of British mothers to have the operation, which was carried out by a team of Belgian and UK surgeons in London.
Following a routine 20-week scan, it emerged that the baby’s head was not the right measurement, and it was later diagnosed with spina bifida, where the child’s spinal cord does not fully develop in the womb, and can affect walking ability.
In a Facebook post, Mrs Simpson wrote: “Our midwife made an appointment in London. Fast forward 48 hours, we were in London having scans on her head and spine.
“With that we were told our little girl had spina bifida. 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.”
The operation took place 24 weeks into Mrs Simpson’s pregnancy, and involved surgeons from University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
They removed the baby from the womb and repaired its spinal cord before putting it back in for the remainder of the pregnancy.
Mrs Simpson is only the fourth mother in the UK to undergo the procedure.
She said: “I had the most recognised surgeons from around the world from University College London Hospital and Belgium looking after me.
“We were a success. Her lesion was small and she smashed surgery like you wouldn’t believe. I’m fragile and sore but as long as she is doing fine that all we care about.”
She added: “Sadly, 80% 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.”