In-womb op baby ‘an absolute joy’

A mother who refused to have an abortion has shared how her daughter is exceeding doctors’ expectations, following her pioneering surgery in January 2019.

Bethan Simpson discovered her unborn baby had spina bifida at 20 weeks. She refused medics’ offer of an abortion, and instead underwent in-womb surgery five weeks later to close the hole which exposed her daughter’s spine.

The surgery was successful and three months later she gave birth to Elouise.

Brain development

Proud mum Bethan told the BBC: “We were told that she would probably have no expectation of walking, developing normally in regards to her brain development, learning.”

She recalled her world “crumbled” when she and husband Kieron heard that their daughter might not survive the pregnancy, and that if she did, she might have “a really bleak outcome”.

But despite doctors’ worries, and thanks to the successful surgery, Elouise has surpassed expectations.

‘Absolute joy’

Bethan said: “We weren’t really expecting her to start walking maybe until she was two, but she started walking at 15 months, she was standing from nine months, and cruising furniture from there on.”

The mother continued: “She talks, she’s happy, she’s got a personality. It makes us feel amazing actually.

“It just validates the reason that we went through the surgery and it also validates why we made the decision not to terminate.”

She added: “She’s an absolute joy. She’s everything you could want and more in a child actually. She’s perfect, she’s chaos. She’s fun, bubbly, loud. She’s a whole lot of person in a very small body.”

‘The wow factor’

Dominic Thompson, of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “It is wonderful to see that Elouise is doing so well.

“As a paediatric consultant, it is very special and rewarding to meet someone that you operated on before they were even born, and I still get the wow factor when I get to see these children in clinic for follow up.”

Currently, it is legal in the UK to have an abortion up to birth if a child has spina bifida, as well as a number of other disabilities, including Down’s syndrome and cleft palate.

Also see:

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