Spina Bifida & Me

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Spina Bifida & Me

Series 2018



Actress Ruth Madeley (Cold Feet, Don’t Take My Baby) takes on board a tough statistic: in the UK, when parents-to-be discover at a 20-week scan that their unborn child has spina bifida, 80% choose to have a termination.

Spina bifida, which Madeley herself was born with, occurs when a section of the spinal column doesn’t “zip up” properly four weeks after an egg is fertilised. She learns more about how that happens and, in a moving scene, what the diagnosis meant for her own mother.

But the really extraordinary scenes here involve a visit to Belgium, where Madeley attends an operation on a foetus to repair the spine while it’s still inside the mother’s womb. Surgeons cut first into the mother, then her uterus, then the foetus – “like a Russian doll”. Even better, we see the difference this operation makes once the baby is born.


One in every thousand babies born in Britain has a spine or brain defect like spina bifida. Thirty years ago, actress Ruth Madeley was one such newborn, but despite having spina bifida herself, she admits she does not fully understand the condition. Here she sets out to discover why she has it, whether it could have been prevented and what it means for her future. She also meets the lord who says a change in the law could prevent thousands of birth defects and discovers how pioneering foetal surgery could offer a different future for babies diagnosed with the condition.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Ruth Madeley
Producer Eileen Inkson
Series Editor Steve Crabtree
Series Producer Rob Liddell
Documentary Science