Celebrated Physician: Sara Iqbal, MD

Who is Dr. Iqbal?

The joyful anticipation of childbirth can also be fraught with anxiety, particularly if the pregnancy is considered high-risk, or unexpected problems develop. That’s when mothers and their families need more than just a capable physician. They also need a counselor, and a friend.

Sara Naeem Iqbal, MD, makes sure they have all that, and more. As program director for MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine program, Dr. Iqbal believes that while each pregnancy is unique, the goal is the same—to fully support the mother with the best possible care throughout a high-risk pregnancy, and the baby’s arrival.  

A voracious student of science while growing up in Pakistan, Dr. Iqbal pursued medicine as a profession because it allowed her to apply her interests toward helping people.  

“You get to make a difference in someone’s life,” she explains. “You ease the sufferings, cure the disease and are able to feel inner satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.”

Why Maternal-Fetal Medicine?

Maternal-fetal medicine likewise provided the opportunity to not only care for a mother and baby, but also focus on what Dr. Iqbal calls “the un-routine” cases—women who encounter problems such as early labor, bleeding or high blood pressure.  

“It was the perfect combination for me—prenatal care, ultrasound, genetic counseling, continuity of care and delivery,” she says. “I believe, by providing specialized clinical care, I can personally impact and make a difference in women’s lives.”  

After completing medical school at Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi, Pakistan, Dr. Iqbal joined her husband in the U.S. and completed her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Howard University Hospital. She focused on high-risk obstetrics during her fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.  

Dr. Iqbal’s interest in gaining and sharing knowledge has proliferated through her many research interests, including intrauterine growth restriction, intrahepatic cholestasis and the effects of diabetes and obesity on pregnancy. She works with ob/gyn residents and fellows at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to help shape their own research pursuits, and leads the Hospital Center’s periodic conferences on high-risk obstetrics and morbidity and mortality.  

Outside the Hospital

Given such a busy, intense schedule, it’s no surprise that Dr. Iqbal enjoys spending as much time as possible with her husband and three daughters. And if she can help her patients achieve that same degree of serenity, it makes the long hours and hard work worthwhile.

 “I feel a sense of fulfillment when I help women,” Dr. Iqbal says, “and in turn give them and their child a healthy, happy life.”  

Thank you, Dr. Iqbal, for everything you do!


Testing Options for High-Risk Pregnancies

For pregnant women over the age of 35, extra monitoring and screening may be recommended to detect for chromosomal abnormalities in their pregnancies.  

In order to determine if there are extra or missing chromosomes, there are several testing options.

First, women can do a blood test. The one most recommended is called non-invasive prenatal testing. It is 99% accurate in screening for the most common chromosomal abnormalities.

A diagnostic option is called an amniocentesis. Through an amniocentesis, we can culture your baby’s cells to search for missing or additional chromosomal information. Finally, another test called a microarray looks even more in depth.

These screenings can be valuable, but also confusing at times.   Dr. Rachael Overcash, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, has a unique explanation for how these tests search fetal DNA, looking for the missing chromosomes.

“I like to explain the testing options to my patients using the analogy of a set of encyclopedias, with 23 volumes representing the 23 pairs of chromosomes. The amniocentesis examines the set of encyclopedias for missing volumes or entire books. The microarray looks deep into the pages and can find missing or additional sections or paragraphs. And in the future, testing may be so advanced that we will be able to see if a single word or letter is missing.”

Ask your doctor or a maternal-fetal medicine specialist which screening options are best for you and your family.

Our specialists are experts in the care of high-risk pregnancies. For an appointment, call us at


As heard on WTOP Radio:

Rachael Overcash, MD

Rachael Overcash, MD
MedStar Washington Hospital Center

For an appointment, call 202-877-3627.