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Patient Stories

Bridgeport Hospital’s Heart Care Program Tackles Critical Gap in Postpartum Care

Melissa Urban and her son Benjamin

Just before the summer solstice, Melissa Urban brought her baby boy, Benjamin into the world. It was her family’s first grandchild and the excitement was palpable.

“All the important people in my life were asking when they could meet the baby,” said Melissa who was so wrapped up in the beauty of her newborn that she didn’t notice her blood pressure skyrocketing.

“The nurses were checking on me regularly and all the sudden things got quiet,” said Melissa. They never said the word preeclampsia at the time, but I was put on magnesium and knew it was pretty serious.”

After months of imagining postpartum bliss, the reality can feel like falling off a cliff. Caring for a newborn often leaves little time to tend to your own health. However, it is also in this period that the mother’s health can hang in the balance. Preeclampsia is associated with a 2 fold increase in coronary heart disease and stroke, and a 4-fold increase in heart failure later in life.

This is why Tabassum Firoz, MD, Internal and Obstetric Medicine, launched Bridgeport Hospital’s Postpartum Heart Care Program in 2020.  The program provides cardiac risk reduction strategies for new mothers who had preeclampsia, eclampsia, or gestational hypertension, many of whom would receive disjointed care or no care at all without this resource.

“Dr. Firoz met me in the hospital and adjusted my medications so it was safe to be discharged,” said Melissa, who is an art teacher, and now squeezes in telehealth appointments with Dr. Firoz on her lunch break.  “For the past year I have been connected with the program and tracking my progress. This experience has gotten me on a path where I am prioritizing my own health and paying attention to how I am feeling.”

This path doesn’t always start after the birth.

Carol Santos and baby

Caroline Santos, who developed vertigo during her second pregnancy and went on to have pre-eclampsia for the second time.

“No one took me seriously until I met with Dr. Firoz and her team.  I was asked questions about my health history and every concern of mine was investigated.”

After Caroline had her baby she went back to work as a mechanical engineer and was able to fit in appointments with a nutritionist and therapist. She even lost 30 lbs and has now come off blood pressure medications.

“My advice to other women is to find a good team,” said Caroline. Ask questions and make sure you are being listened to. Take the time to focus on your pregnancy. Nine months goes fast and you should feel entitled to do what you need to do to stay calm.”

Since its inception, the Postpartum Heart Care Program has grown, receiving referrals not only within the hospital but from community health clinics and private OB practices. The multi-disciplinary program accepts all women regardless of insurance, provides culturally contextualized and individualized plans that include nutrition consults, mental health referrals, medication management as well as connections to cardiology and primary care.