Simpson, who is due to give birth to a girl in April, urged parents in the same position to consider surgery rather than having an abortion. Picture: Pixabay

London - A mom-to-be has told how her unborn baby had a groundbreaking procedure in the womb to treat spina bifida.

Bethan Simpson, 26, is just the fourth British patient to undergo the surgery to help stop their child having life-long disabilities.

A team of experts cut open her womb so they could reach her child’s defective spinal cord and help protect it from damage during pregnancy.

Simpson, who is due to give birth to a girl in April, urged parents in the same position to consider surgery rather than having an abortion.

"Sadly, 80 percent of babies in England are terminated when their parents get told their baby has this condition," she said. "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."

Simpson, a nurse, and her husband Kieron were told at a 20-week scan that their baby’s head was not the right size. The child was then diagnosed with spina bifida at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex.

This occurs when the spine and spinal cord do not develop normally in the womb. The most common type is myelomeningocele, where the spinal canal remains open along several vertebrae. This leads to nerve damage that causes weakness or paralysis in the legs and loss of bowel or bladder control.

Simpson’s case was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

"We were offered continuing pregnancy, ending pregnancy or a new option called foetal surgery, fixing her before she is born," she said.

"We had to do it. We also had to meet some seriously strict criteria. Baby and I went through amniotic fluid tests, MRIs and relentless scans. We got approved and we planned for surgery. Our lives were such a rollercoaster for the next few weeks."

Developed in the US, the procedure is still available at only a few centres in Europe. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found 42 percent of babies that had it were walking at 30 months, compared with 21 percent among those who had surgery after birth.

Daily Mail