A new family in Essex received wonderful news when they were told their baby, who had undergone spinal surgery in utero, would now finally be able to leave the hospital and go home.
Baby Elouise Simpson was diagnosed with spina bifida at her mother's 20-week ultrasound. Doctors advised the baby's mother, Bethan Simpson, 26, that she could leave Elouise as is, terminate the pregnancy, or opt for fetal repair surgery. She and her husband Kieron decided the surgery was their best option, even though it has only been done on a few women in the UK.
For those that haven't heard the term, spina bifida is a condition in which the spinal cord and spinal column don't fuse as they should during pregnancy. According to the BBC, "babies born with the condition can become paralyzed, suffer bladder and bowel problems- and it can affect brain development". After hearing this, the Simpsons felt that surgery was the way to go to give their baby even a chance at normalcy.
"I couldn't justify terminating a child I could feel kicking", Bethan told BBC.
During the four-hour procedure, doctors opened up Bethan's womb, exposing Elouise's lower back. They then sewed up the gap in the baby's spine before closing the womb back up. Although spina bifida occurs in 4 out of every 10,000 pregnancies, the BBC reports that it is estimated that roughly 80% of babies who are diagnosed with spina bifida during their 20-week scan are terminated.
The procedure, which took place at University College Hospital in London, was declared successful, and baby Elouise was born on 1 April.
Now a few weeks old, baby Eloise is doing wonderfully well adjusting to life outside the womb. Her mother has told the BBC that she "shows no signs" of spina bifida and now has feeling all the way to her toes. She is on antibiotics to be on the safe side.
"She has slightly enlarged ventricles, which she always did have, but her kidneys, bladder, and hips are all normal," Bethan said.
Studies have shown that taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester when the spinal column and cord form, helps to reduce the risk of conditions such as this one from developing. Although the Simpson family was very lucky in their case, it is important to take precautions by ensuring folic acid is a regular part of your dietary vitamins during pregnancy.