A couple have revealed how they made the harrowing decision to abort their first child – after doctors advised that she had a severe birth defect that could lead to a lifetime of suffering.
Jade, 32, and Mark, 31, Dodson, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, were elated to fall pregnant after two-and-a-half years of trying and several rounds of fertility treatment.
However, the couple’s dreams of finally having a baby of their own were shattered after a routine 20-week-scan revealed that the daughter they named Amalie Maya had spina bifida, a severe birth defect.
After consulting doctors, Jade and Mark, an app founder, decided to terminate the pregnancy at 22 weeks, just two weeks before the legal abortion limit in the UK.
‘Entirely for her’: Jade Dodson, 32, and husband Mark, 31, who runs a loyalty card computer app, from Wakefield, were delighted to fall pregnant after two-and-a-half years of trying to conceive including rounds of fertility treatment. However, a 20-week-scan of the pregnancy revealed that their daughter, Amalie May, had a serious birth defect that would mean her life would be ‘challenging’
Joy turned to anguish at the 20-week routine pregnancy scan after Jade and Mark were told that it was likely that their daughter would have brain damage, which could lead to paralysis
The couple say they made the heartbreaking decision to abort the pregnancy after doctors told them that even an operation in the womb might not help their daughter’s condition
After a procedure to stop Amalie’s heartbeat in the womb, she was born on December 22nd 2018 and a funeral was held on January 4th, after Jade had recovered from an infection that saw her admitted to hospital over New Year.
The couple, who wed in October 2015, had been told that Amalie’s condition meant it was likely that she would have been left with brain damage and possible bowel dysfunction and paralysis.
An option to operate on the baby in the womb was offered to the couple but there was no guarantee that their daughter would avoid a life of suffering or that Jade herself wouldn’t be put in danger.
We had a procedure with local anaesthetic to stop Amalie’s heartbeat at 22 weeks. Our decision was made entirely for her…
Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that affects approximately 1 in 1,000 babies in the UK and Jade and Mark’s daughter had the most severe form of the disease, known as Myelomeningocele.
Now, they say they made the heartbreaking decision to have a termination because they wanted to ‘free’ Amalie.
Jade told Mirror Online: ‘Ahead of the 20-week scan everything was perfect, we felt like the luckiest people in the world and we’d already found out she was going to be a girl.’
What is spina bifida?
Spina bifida is a fault in the development of the spine and spinal cord that leaves a gap in the spine.
About 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida each year in the US, according to the CDC. In the UK, approximately 1 in 1,000 babies are born with the condition.
Most cases are detected before birth, at the 20-week scan.
The most serious form of the disease is called myelomeningocele. In myelomeningocele, the spinal column remains open along the bones making up the spine.
The membranes and spinal cord push out to create a sac in the baby’s back.
This sometimes leaves the nervous system vulnerable to infections that may be fatal.
In most cases surgery is carried out to close the gap in the spine after birth.
But damage to the nervous system will usually already have taken place, resulting in:
- partial or total paralysis of the lower limbs
- bowel and urinary incontinence
- loss of skin sensation
Most babies with myelomeningocele will also develop hydrocephalus, with excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pooling inside the brain.
This is caused by a malformation at the base of the skull in which the lower parts of the brain are pushed down towards the spinal cord.
Babies with hydrocephalus are fitted with a shunt after birth to divert the fluid from the brain, so reducing the risk of increasing cranial pressure, into the abdominal cavity.
Jade and Mark pictured on their wedding day in October 2015. After years of trying for a baby, they discovered they were expecting Amalie in August this year
Challenge: The couple will now complete the Three Peaks Challenge on the day that Amalie was due to be born in tribute to her and to raise funds for Action Medical Research, which funds research on conditions including Spina Bifida
A second appointment after the fetal development scan saw their fears over Amalie’s health confirmed.
Jade told Mirror Online that they were advised they could have an abortion, saying: ‘We were told I could have a procedure with local anaesthetic to stop Amalie’s heartbeat before giving birth and this is what we decided to do at 22 weeks.
‘We felt this was the best thing ethically for Amalie. Our decision was made entirely for her.’
After the abortion on December 22nd 2018, a funeral was held on January 4th when Jade had recovered from an infection.
On a fundraising page set up in Amalie’s memory to raise money for more research into Spina Bifida, the couple revealed the heartache they’ve endured since losing the pregancy.
Jade said: ‘This has by far been the most difficult thing we have ever faced. We’d like to help prevent the future suffering endured by couples, families and their babies.’
The couple will now complete the Three Peaks Challenge on the day that Amalie was due to be born, April 27th.
They added: ‘We will be joined on the day by lots of our family and friends, who are doing the challenge with us to help us achieve the ambitious £5,000 we are aiming for.
‘Together we can raise more and the further our story reaches the better, therefore please feel free to share this page with your own family and friends.’