By Alexandra Thompson Senior Health Reporter For Mailonline
Published: 10:12 GMT, 11 February 2019 | Updated: 13:16 GMT, 11 February 2019
A pregnant woman has become one of the first in the UK to have pioneering surgery on her baby's spine while it is still in the womb.
Bethan Simpson, 26, of Burnham, Essex, was first advised to terminate her pregnancy when doctors discovered her baby had the birth defect spina bifida during her 20-week scan.
Refusing to give up on her little one, Mrs Simpson and her husband, Kieron, opted for foetal repair.
This involves doctors operating on the baby's spinal cord while it is still in its mother's uterus.
The surgery was a success and Mrs Simpson is now due to give birth to a baby girl in April.
Until now the operation has only been carried out in Belgium, where a handful of British babies have been successfully treated in recent years, with all doing well.
Bethan Simpson (pictured left with her mother in hospital) is one of the first women in the UK to have pioneering womb surgery before giving birth. She discovered her baby has spina bifida during a scan and was offered foteal repair surgery to position the little one's spinal cord to its spinal canal while in the womb. She is pictured right after the operation with her scar visible
Mrs Simpson's routine 20-week scan (pictured) revealed her baby's head was not the size it should be. She was then referred to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, where doctors diagnosed the youngster with spina bifida. Doctors at first recommended a termination
Mrs Simpson discovered her baby's head was not the right size during a routine scan.
She was sent to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, where doctors diagnosed the youngster with spina bifida.
'Fast forward 48 hours and we were in London having scans on her head and spine,' Mrs Simpson said. '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 agreed to do it.'
Foetal repair for spina bifida is a delicate operation where surgeons open the womb and close the opening in the back of the baby's head while it is still in the uterus.
Spinal cord damage worsens during pregnancy, therefore this procedure can help prevent the condition becoming more severe.
It does not cure the condition but studies show it significantly improves results over surgery that is carried out after the baby has been born.
The procedure also boosts the child's chances of having good mobility and being able to walk independently.