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Elouise is healthy after parents chose prenatal surgery for spina bifida, not abortion
When doctors told 26-year-old mental health nurse Bethan Simpson after her 20-week ultrasound that her daughter Eloise had spina bifida — a condition in which the area around the developing spinal cord fails to properly close — they recommended abortion. But Simpson refused. “I couldn’t justify terminating a child I could feel kicking,” she said. Bethan and husband Kieron opted for prenatal surgery instead, which they called a “no-brainer.” The surgery has only been recently introduced to the United Kingdom, and has been done successfully there a handful of times. The BBC reports that Simpson is thought to be the fourth mother to undergo the surgery in the UK. The surgery has been done many times successfully in the United States and in Belgium.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the hours-long surgery is typically done between 19 and 25 weeks, and will likely require the mother to remain on bedrest after the surgery for as long as possible. If labor does not begin early, CHOP states that mothers will deliver by planned C-section at 37 weeks.
The Simpsons reportedly conceived Elouise through IVF, and were alarmed when they learned at their prenatal scan that she had spina bifida. As is sadly typical when a fetal anomaly is found during pregnancy, abortion was recommended. Bethan told the Daily Mail that doctors “did say it would be a pretty bleak outcome… very bleak. It was such a raw time.” Her husband Kieron added, “It was a pretty stark choice. How could we bring a child into this world with such a poor quality of life? She may not have had the use of her lower limbs as well as dysfunctional bladder and kidneys.”
But after going to another hospital and learning of the surgical option, the Simpsons were determined to help their child — not to terminate her for having physical challenges. At 25 weeks, Bethan had the surgery, done by a team of 20 doctors — and because of the choice to try to give Elouise a chance at life, she is doing amazingly well today. She reportedly shows no signs of spina bifida. When she was born on April 1, 2019, she “came out literally kicking and screaming – and peeing all over the place – so she ticked all the boxes,” her mother told the BBC.
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