An unborn baby successfully underwent surgery to repair its spinal cord in a first-of-its-kind surgery. The surgery was done at 24 weeks gestation after a routine scan at 20 weeks revealed that the baby’s head was not the right size and the spinal cord was not fully developed.

A series of tests was conducted and doctors diagnosed the baby with spina bifida, a condition that can leave patients with walking difficulties and even paralysis.

26-year-old Bethan Simpson and her husband were advised to either undergo a fetal repair surgery, keep the pregnancy as is or terminate it. The couple opted for the surgery.

A team of surgeons from University College London, Great Ormond Street Hospital, along with several Belgian doctors undertook the surgery last year in December.

The surgery entailed removing the baby from the womb to undergo an operation after which it was placed back in the womb to continue developing as normal.

Bethan, who is expected to deliver in April this year was happy with the decision that they made to undergo the surgery and called for more awareness to be made on the condition.

“Our baby 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.”

According to the Daily Mail, the surgery is believed to be only the fourth time the operation has been attempted in the UK.

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when a developing baby’s spine and spinal cord fails to develop or close properly while in the womb. This causes a gap in the spine which when repaired after birth might cause nerve damage.

The cause of the condition is not known , but a lack of folic acid before and in the early stages of pregnancy is a significant risk factor. Other factors include taking certain medications during pregnancy or having a family history of spina bifida.

Surgery is used to close the opening in the spine in most cases of spina bifida. Once the baby is born, a number of tests may be carried out to assess the severity of the condition and help decide which treatments are appropriate, as per theNHS.

While most people with the condition have normal intelligence, some have learning difficulties. Taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy can help prevent or reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.