The baby she thought she’d never have: Mother becomes first in UK to have child genetically screened to 'save him from life of pain'
Cuddling her baby son in her arms, Natalie Glascott-Tull appears like any ordinary first time mother overjoyed at her precious new arrival.
But the 31-year-old has more reason than most to celebrate the birth of baby Nathanial – because he is the child she never dared dream she would ever have.
The former nursery assistant suffers from a rare genetic disorder which causes growths on her bones, leaving her in almost constant pain.
Natalie Glascott-Tull, pictured with baby Nathanial, suffers from a rare genetic disorder which causes growths on her bones leaving her in almost constant pain and she was worried she would pass on her condition
Determined not to pass the condition on to any children, Mrs Glascott-Tull and her husband, Nick, a police officer, thought they would be unable to have a family of their own.
But, after reading about controversial ‘designer baby’ screening, the couple underwent specialist fertility treatment and last July Mrs Glascott-Tull became the first mother in the UK to give birth to a child which had been genetically screened for her condition.
Yesterday Mrs Glascott-Tull, of Wallasey, Merseyside, said scientists had helped make their dreams of having a family come true.
‘Nathaniel means the whole world to me, I can’t describe how wonderful it is to hold him in my arms,’ she said.
‘I was warned that any child of mine would have a 50-50 chance of suffering from the same condition and that was a chance I could not take.
Scientists in Belgium were able to isolate
the defective gene responsible for her condition,
before developing a test and using it to screen the
couple’s embryos, making sure only those without the disorder were
implanted via IVF
‘Of course we didn’t use the screening to create a perfect baby, I just didn’t want to inflict any pain on my baby and for it not to suffer the way I have.
‘I still can’t believe he is really here. He is a little miracle. He is the healthy baby boy who I never dreamed I could have and being a mother is the greatest feeling in the world.’
Mrs Glascott-Tull was born with Hereditary Multiple Exostoses, an incurable condition which causes bony spurs or lumps to develop on bones, which in turn can catch on muscles and tendons, leaving her in severe pain.
Since childhood she has undergone 30 separate operations and sometimes needs the use of a wheelchair to move around.
She always dreamed of having a family, but vowed never to put a child through the suffering she had endured, so never believed it was a realistic possibility.
Instead she found work as a nursery assistant in the hope it would be enough to satisfy her motherly instinct.
‘I’ve always had dreams of becoming a mum but I had to face the reality that I could not guarantee my children would not suffer like me,’ she said.
‘I really could not live with the guilt of that knowing that I had brought them into this world and for them to feel the pain I have endured.’
But after reading about genetic selection Mrs Glascott-Tull’s mother, Gill, a children’s nurse, persuaded the couple to seek advice.
Natalie had a difficult pregnancy because of her condition but healthy Nathanial was born by Caesarean section last year
Under the guidance of Dr Alan Fryer, of the Merseyside and Cheshire Genetics Service, run by Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, the couple began to believe that having a healthy child was possible.
Because no centres in the UK were able to offer the complex testing the couple needed, doctors suggested they go to a specialist hospital in Belgium for treatment.
Scientists there were able to isolate the defective gene responsible for Mrs Glascott-Tull’s condition, before developing a test for the gene and using it to screen the couple’s embryos to make sure only those without the disorder were implanted via IVF.
Mrs Glascott-Tull said they realised the treatment was controversial, but insists they were not trying to nurture a 'designer baby.'
‘My husband and I talked about all the ethical issues involved,’ she said.
‘It was not the case that we were trying to select a perfect baby, all we wanted was that the baby would be free from the condition that I have.
‘It was the chance of a lifetime and I decided to go for it.’
Unfortunately, their first attempt failed but the couple were determined to try again and in November 2010 Mrs Glascott-Tull discovered she was pregnant.
She had a difficult pregnancy because of her condition and Nathanial was born by Caesarean section.
‘When I held him in my arms for the first time I cannot explain the wonderful feelings that flooded over me,’ she said.
‘It was like all of the heartbreak, the pain from my condition, all of it suddenly didn’t matter anymore.
‘My life felt complete. I just couldn’t stop cuddling him and I could hardly believe my eyes.
‘I just knew in my heart that I had done the right thing – now I have the family I never before believed could be possible.’
Dr Fryer, a consultant clinical geneticist, said his team were delighted when Mrs Glascott-Tull gave birth to Nathanial.
‘When Natalie was referred to us a few years ago she very much wanted a baby but did not want to have a baby who would go through the pain, operations and complications that she had experienced,’ he said.
‘The condition had been and continues to be a very significant burden for her. We are delighted that all of this activity has borne fruit.’