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Sentara Norfolk General offers new program for mothers with hypertension

There’s a new program to help new moms who are dealing with high blood pressure. The initiative is the first of its kind in Virginia.

NORFOLK, Va. — There’s help for new moms dealing with a potentially deadly issue -- hypertension or high blood pressure can cause sickness and death for women after childbirth. Women of color are especially vulnerable.

“We’re focused on hypertension because it’s so prevalent among the women we serve,” says Megan Buchholz, director of Family Maternity at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, which serves a high percentage of patients with high-risk pregnancies. “Every woman who leaves the hospital on hypertension medication is offered the Moms Matter service and we’re getting a good response so far." 

In the first two weeks of the program, more than 25 women agreed to participate.

Leaders at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital launched the Moms Matter initiative -- the first effort of its kind in Virginia -- to offer home-based follow-up care for women who leave the hospital on hypertension medications.

“It’s great to know that someone out that cares about what’s going on with my health,” explained new mom Christina Young.

The partnership is between the hospital and the Children’s Health Investment Program, also known as CHIP of South Hampton Roads. Nurses will make sure the new moms are staying happy and healthy.

Moms Matter nurses will help women attend follow-up OB visits and assist in connecting them with primary care physicians. They’ll look for stressors that complicate life after childbirth, including food insecurity, transportation and other small children at home or learning virtually during the pandemic. The nurses will initially make weekly virtual visits to ensure Moms are taking their medications correctly and provide additional health education. 

They will screen for postpartum depression and support breastfeeding and safe sleep practices for newborns.

“I think it’s a fantastic program," Young said. "I’ve been in contact with my nurse, Hope. She texts me periodically to see how I’m doing.”

Christina Young said her pregnancy was anything but easy. At 33 weeks, Young said she found out she had preeclampsia and hypertension.

“When I saw the doctor, the doctor tells me you need to go to the hospital right now," Young said.

After hours of trying to deliver her baby boy naturally, she had an emergency C-section.

“To have my son at 33 weeks. So, he was born seven weeks premature,” Young said.

Her son Edward is now three weeks old. He’s still at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, but Young said he should be able to come home soon.

“If I haven’t gone to that appointment, I wouldn’t know how long it would have been that I found out my blood pressure was going through the roof and potentially not only harming me but I’m potentially harming my son," Young remarked.

Young is now part of the Moms Matter group. She hopes other new moms who are also dealing with high blood pressure take advantage of this new resource.