Most babies are born healthy, but 3 percent to 5 percent of all babies will be born with some type of birth defect. Birth defects are health problems or physical changes present in a baby at the time of birth. Certain pregnancies have higher risks for birth defects than others, either due to personal or family history, medication or drug exposure, or parental age.
The Maternal-Fetal Medicine program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center offers physician-directed genetic (the study of how traits are passed from parents to children) and pre-conception counseling to families who wish to learn more about their risk factors for having a baby with a birth defect. Our goal is to educate patients about their risk factors before a pregnancy, and help parents who have children with birth defects learn as much as they can about the defect, and discuss treatment options.
Our maternal fetal medicine physicians work with you and your primary Ob/Gyn. We offer the most advanced maternal fetal screenings and diagnostic procedures to evaluate your level of risk, and to verify and diagnose any abnormality. We then provide personalized comprehensive counseling, education and fetal treatment options. Your primary Ob/Gyn may continue to provide your routine care throughout your pregnancy.
Our patients come to us for personalized genetic and pre-conception counseling for many reasons. Some have a family or personal history of a genetic condition. Others have had trouble getting pregnant, or have experienced multiple miscarriages or infant deaths. Additional reasons you might seek genetic counseling include:
- You will be 35 years of age or older when you deliver. This is because the odds of having a child with a chromosomal change, such as Down syndrome, increase with maternal age.
- You had a screening or diagnostics procedure that revealed an increased risk for a fetal abnormality.
- You had an ultrasound that identified a possible abnormality in your baby’s development, such as a cleft lip, spina bifida, or a heart defect.
- You and your partner are close relatives, such as first cousins.
- Your ethnic or racial heritage makes you prone to higher risk for certain genetic conditions. For example, couples of African descent have a higher chance of having a child with sickle cell anemia; couples of European Jewish (Ashkenazi) or French Canadian descent have a higher risk for Tay-Sachs disease; and couples of Italian, Greek or Middle Eastern descent have a higher chance to carry the gene for thalassemia, a blood cell disorder.
- You have identified a condition in a close relative that raises concern for this pregnancy to be at risk.
Why Choose Ohio State Wexner's Medical Center?
We understand that the uncertainty surrounding the potential risks or the diagnosis of a developmental abnormality in your baby can be extremely confusing and distressing. Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s genetics and pre-conception program provides personalized care, support and education to help guide you through both the evaluation of your risks and through your pregnancy. We will spend as much time with you as you need to help you understand and prepare for your baby’s arrival.
Our genetics and pre-conception counseling team is led by Britton Rink, MD, a maternal fetal medicine physician who is dual board-certified in both medical genetics and obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Rink is one of only approximately 200 maternal fetal medicine doctors nationwide (and the only one in central Ohio) with similar credentials to address not only high-risk obstetric complications but pediatric and adult genetic medical conditions. Her expertise helps our patients better understand their risks of having a baby with a birth defect or genetic condition, and better prepare them for what to expect upon their baby’s arrival.
Additionally, three board-certified prenatal genetic counselors are key members of your healthcare team. They draw upon a collective 40 years of experience in the field to provide our patients with compassionate counseling.
As part of an academic medical center, Ohio State’s genetics and pre-conception counseling team offers patients access to innovative research, medical expertise and the latest technologies and treatments. Our maternal fetal medicine physicians are actively involved in clinical research and have participated in the development and testing of many of the screening procedures and treatments we offer our patients.
Some birth defects have a specific known cause, such as a chromosome abnormality, a single gene mutation, or a particular environmental exposure. Some are caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Ohio State’s genetics and pre-conception counseling program offers the following services:
Pre-conception Screening and Risk Assessments – We review your personal or family history, medication or drug exposure, parental age, and other factors to help determine whether you have an increased risk for having a baby with certain birth defects. Depending on your personal risk factors, we offer carrier screening and testing options that help further evaluate this risk. We also counsel families who have had a child with a birth defect to try to determine the cause, if possible.
Prenatal Screening and Diagnosis – We offer many prenatal evaluations, fetal monitoring and screening tools that are designed to answer your questions and detect or rule out potential issues with your baby’s development. Any information learned during pregnancy about fetal abnormalities can be used to develop an individualized treatment and delivery plan before birth.
Counseling and Education – Our board-certified prenatal genetic counselors provide both information and support to families who may have an increased risk for having a child with a birth defect or genetic condition. If your baby is found to have a developmental abnormality, your counselor can provide valuable resources or referrals; most of the time we provide reassurance that your pregnancy is going well.
Fetal Treatment Program – Only a small number of pregnancies require medical or surgical treatments before delivery. For those rare occurrences, our specialists intervene during pregnancy to treat a developing fetus in the womb to correct problems before birth, with the goal of helping the baby not just in the early stages of life, but also throughout the baby’s development.
Britton Rink, MD, Director of Genetics, Prenatal Diagnosis & Ultrasound
If you are a patient and would like to schedule an appointment, call 614-293-2222 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Ohio State’s Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza
Ohio State’s Maternal Fetal Medicine
2050 Kenny Road, Fifth Floor Tower Building
Columbus, OH 43221