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Surgery in the womb – Prima Baby

HARRUPsarahPRIMAbaby (Small)Here’s an incredible health story which we featured in Prima Baby magazine. It’s the story of Sarah-Jane and her baby, Sienna.

Not a lot of people can claim to have had their first operation while still in the womb, but that’s what happened to Sienna. Duing Sarah-Jane’s pregnancy, a lump was picked up in scans on Sienna’s neck. It was obstructing her airways and doctors worried that she wouldn’t be able to take her first breath.

The only option was a high risk procedure to operate on the baby while she was still in the womb. And so, at 37 weeks, a C-section begun. It was high risk for Sarah-Jane too as she’d be on the operating table a lot longer than is normally recommended.

But after the two hour operation, both mother and baby were alive and well. The obstruction was a thyroid swelling and subsided as soon as doctors compressed the windpipe. Baby Sienna took her first breath safely and successfully.

It really makes you very grateful for the medical advances that have meant stories like this give hope. You can read more of the story below.



Sarah and Sienna both survived a life-risking operation on baby Sienna while she was still in Sarah’s womb…

Sarah, 30, explains:

When Deryck, 31, and I, found out I was pregnant, we were so happy. And until the 20 week scan, everything was fine. 

Then, they said: ‘The baby has a lump on her neck. We’ll monitor it.’

We were warned it could be a tumour. I was asked if I had a history of thyroid problems in the family – which I didn’t. 

At 32 weeks pregnant, the lump was getting bigger.

‘It could be a cyst, or a thyroid gland swelling. Or it could be a tumour. We won’t know until the baby is born. But with the lump, she won’t be able to breathe when she’s born.’ 

They needed to give Sienna a procedure to clear the blockage – while she was still in the womb. 

‘It’s high risk,’ they warned. ‘We could cut into her voicebox, she could have internal bleeding. If we can’t get to the swelling, she won’t survive birth.’

It was so much to take in. And there was more. 

‘It’s risky for you too. You’ll be left open for much longer than a normal Caesarean section, and there is risk of haemorrhage, of internally bleeding to death and of you needing a hysterectomy.’

I was in a daze. Not only could my baby die, but me too. 

But what choice did I have? I had to give my baby a chance. 

So we agreed. A date was set for the Caesarean. They wanted to leave the baby inside me for as long as possible so she was big and strong, but not leave it so long that she might be born naturally. 

In April 2013, at 37 weeks, they were ready. 

I was terrified neither of us would survive. 

Deryk wasn’t allowed in the theatre, we said our goodbyes before I was put to sleep. 

The doctors opened me up, then, before taking Sienna out of the womb, performed the tricky operation on her.

Two hours later, I woke up. 

‘You’re doing well,’ the doctor whispered. ‘And your baby is too.’

I couldn’t believe it. We’d survived!

The doctors were able to diagnose Sienna straight away. The mass had been a thyroid swelling. As soon as the tube was inserted, the swelling, which had been compressing her windpipe, subsided.

Which meant she could safely start breathing… and was okay to be born.

She’s nine months old now and doing so well. Every time she looks at me with those big blue eyes I think about how lucky I am to have her. Not a lot of babies can say they had their first operation while they were still in the womb.