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Fetal Nerve, Spine, and Brain Conditions

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Many fetal nerve, spine, and brain disorders can be diagnosed before birth. Children with these kinds of complications during delivery can be at risk for developmental challenges.

A common spinal defect is spina bifida, which is a neural tube defect (NTD). These occur in about 1 in 1,500 pregnancies each year.

Many babies born with an NTD are otherwise healthy with no other birth abnormalities or genetic problems. NTDs do, however, come with an increased risk for genetic syndromes. The exact cause of NTDs is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of complex genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors.

Providers and scientists do know that folic acid plays a role in the development of NTDs, which is why it's important for expectant mothers to receive enough folic acid (a key nutrient in prenatal vitamins) prior to getting pregnant.

Other conditions such as diabetes and high fevers in early pregnancy that can also increase the risk.

General symptoms of NTDs can include:

  • Physical problems, such as paralysis, urinary, and bowel control issues
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Intellectual disability
  • Lack of consciousness and, in some cases, death

By the Numbers


Patients Cared for with an NTD or Structural Brain Change Diagnosed in Utero in the Last 5 Years


Surgeries Performed in Infants and Children Each Year

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UR Medicine's Treatments for Fetal Nerve, Spine, and Brain Conditions

Our experienced maternal and fetal care specialists and UR Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital offer a complete range of diagnostic and treatment options to care for babies with fetal nerve, spine, and brain conditions, both before and after birth.

Golisano Children’s Hospital is home to the only Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral team in the Rochester region that can help provide support and information about what to expect when a child is diagnosed with these conditions prior to birth.

Some nerve, spine, and brain conditions require surgery after birth. Our Pediatric Neurosurgery and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics teams have the experience to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Most pregnancies with NTDs will need advanced imaging, as well as additional evaluation and assessment prior to birth. UR Medicine offers the region’s only fetal MRI center, to help evaluate many complex fetal conditions and placenta abnormalities.

Our team offers a full range of options for evaluation of your baby, including:

You will be offered genetic testing, as some children with these conditions will have a genetic disorder. You may be offered additional testing with an amniocentesis. Our MFM physicians and fellows will review all the findings and treatment options with you before scheduling any next steps.

What Sets Us Apart?

UR Medicine is home to the only center in the Finger Lakes region that offers this care, and is very experienced in caring for these critically ill infants. While these conditions are rare, our team is the most experienced in the region. We have cared for more than 500 fetuses and infants with these conditions, more than anyone else in the region.

Our physicians work with other specialists to provide comprehensive care for pregnant people. Related fields include cardiology, genetics, internal medicine, endocrinology, rheumatology, pulmonary medicine, and psychiatry. By combining areas of expertise, our multidisciplinary team is able to offer safe diagnostic and therapeutic resources.

Your MFM care coordinators will ensure you receive all the information and support you need before and during delivery at UR Medicine's Golisano Children’s Hospital.

These care specialists can help with everything from:

  • Coordinating referrals to UR Medicine’s specialists and experts
  • Navigating appointment schedules
  • Explaining complex testing and test results
  • Planning for delivery
  • Answering your questions at any point during your pregnancy

UR Medicine's Maternal-Fetal Care's OB/GYN ultrasound unit is certified by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine to perform Level 2 ultrasounds, a more in-depth evaluation. Our experienced Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and state-of-the-art equipment including 3D/4D capabilities help diagnose effectively. We offer fetal assessment and fetal monitoring on-site at both of our office locations, allowing the team to have all of the needed information available.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Granted AIUM Accreditation 2021-2024


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6 locations

Reproductive Genetics - Rochester

Lattimore Medical Center
125 Lattimore Road, West Entrance, Suite 150
Rochester, NY 14620

Maternal-Fetal Medicine - Henrietta

500 Red Creek Drive, Suite 210
Rochester, NY 14623

Maternal-Fetal Medicine - Rochester

Lattimore Medical Center
125 Lattimore Road, West Entrance, Suite 150
Rochester, NY 14620

Maternal-Fetal Medicine - Rochester

Highland Perinatal Center
990 South Avenue, Suite 103
Rochester, NY 14620

Maternal-Fetal Medicine - Rochester

Highland Perinatal Center
909 Culver Road
Rochester, NY 14609

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