Women’s Health Corner: Advanced prenatal testing options help expectant parents prepare

Pregnancy is an exciting time – but it can also cause some anxiety. That may be especially true for those whose pregnancy is considered high risk. Knowing what to expect can reassure parents-to-be and help them plan their pregnancy or prepare for care after delivery. University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital offers the full gamut of advanced prenatal screening and diagnostic testing.

“Many doctors recommend additional testing to women with high-risk pregnancies, such as those who will be age 35 or older at the time of delivery, have abnormal results from other screenings or ultrasounds or have a family history of chromosomal problems,” explains Leslie Cohen, MS, PhD, a certified genetic counselor at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital. “However, prenatal testing is a choice. We provide information about testing options but patients are always in control.”

Benefits of prenatal testing

While prenatal screening tests can reveal a woman’s chance of having a baby with a chromosomal problem, diagnostic testing can give more definitive information about the fetus. Diagnostic tests at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital can help identify Down syndrome, Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13. They can also pinpoint inherited conditions such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.

“For some parents, knowing if their baby has a serious health condition before birth can be very important. Some use the information to manage pregnancy decisions. However, it helps many others prepare emotionally, financially and even logistically,” explains Dr. Cohen. “For example, depending on medical needs, couples may opt to deliver at a center capable of caring for the special needs of their infant.”

Latest noninvasive testing available

In addition to the full range of prenatal screening tests, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital offers amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) to definitively diagnose chromosomal issues. The hospital is also the first in Northeast Ohio to offer the noninvasive prenatal test (NIPT).

“NIPT is a major revolution in prenatal testing. By performing a blood test on the mother, we can analyze the DNA of the fetus,” says Dr. Cohen. “In many situations, normal NIPT results can be very reassuring and reduce the need for other invasive tests, which carry some risk to the fetus. We offer this option to most patients who would otherwise be offered invasive testing, but NIPT is not for everyone or every case.”

Are you interested in prenatal testing? Talk with your obstetrician or call UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital’s Center for Human Genetics at 216-844-3936. No referral is needed.

LESLIE COHEN, MS, PhD
Certified Genetic Counselor,
UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital
Clinical Instructor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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