Bethesda North Hospital Perinatal Center

Institutes & Services > Women's Health Services > High-Risk Pregnancy > Bethesda North Hospital Perinatal Center
newborn baby

From offering routine ultrasounds for normal pregnancies to in-depth prenatal testing and genetic counseling for women facing complicated pregnancies, our specially trained team is here to help. We combine state-of-the-art technology with integrated medical care to help your obstetrician monitor progress throughout your pregnancy, and provide the quality outcomes you deserve.  

Prenatal tests

When you are expecting a baby, you want the best of everything for your child. All testing is overseen, reviewed and interpreted by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, a physician with specialized training in prenatal testing.  

The Perinatal Center provides the following tests for women who are facing complicated pregnancies:


Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of your baby. It can answer many questions about your baby's development, growth and anatomy, and can determine the presence of multiple pregnancies.


Amniocentesis Explained:  

  • An amniocentesis is a procedure that allows your baby to be tested for genetic disorders.
  • The procedure is performed at 15 weeks gestation or later.
  • During an amniocentesis, the physician uses ultrasound to carefully guide a thin needle through your abdomen and into the uterus. A small amount of amniotic fluid, which surrounds the baby, is collected.

Amniocentesis: Why Do Women Have It Done? 

Most women have an amniocentesis to test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Amniocentesis may also be used to detect the baby's lung maturity and infection. Testing for open defects of the spine, such as spina bifida, can be accomplished by measuring a protein called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in the amniotic fluid.

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is another procedure that tests for certain genetic defects, including chromosomal abnormalities. The physician inserts a thin needle through the abdomen into the uterus to collect a sample of the developing placenta. This procedure can be performed as early as 10 weeks gestation, however, unlike an amniocentesis, CVS cannot detect open spinal defects.

Non-Stress Test

External fetal monitoring is used to measure the baby's wellbeing and placental function by graphing the accelerations in heart rate that correspond with the baby's movement. This test is typically performed during the third trimester.

Biophysical Profile (BPP)

By using ultrasound and fetal heart monitoring, the BPP test measures the baby's heart rate, breathing activity, movement, fetal tone and the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. It is more comprehensive than a non-stress test.

Genetic Counseling

If you have had a baby with birth abnormalities or if there is a family history of developmental complications or a mental handicap, your obstetrician might recommend that you meet with a genetic counselor before you become pregnant or during your pregnancy.

You might benefit from genetic counseling if you:

  • Are age 35 and older at the time of delivery
  • Have had chemical, drug or radiation exposure during pregnancy
  • Have a personal or family history of mental retardation, inherited disorders or birth defects
  • Have a history of stillbirths, infant deaths or miscarriage
  • Have had an abnormal maternal serum screen for chromosomal or neural tube defects
  • Have had an ultrasound that shows the presence of a fetal abnormality
  • Have been told there is a suspected or known problem with the pregnancy

A genetic counselor can explain tests that are available and test results, provide information about various conditions, and discuss the chance that a condition might occur again in a family. If a birth abnormality or other problem is diagnosed during pregnancy, the genetic counselor can connect you with other families in similar situations. The genetic counselor can also work with your physician, neonatologist and other pediatric specialists to develop a plan for your baby’s care during pregnancy.

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