Black Maternal Health Week

A pregnant Black mother looks down at her stomach.Black Maternal Health Week is observed from April 11th to 17th; it is focused on raising awareness about inequities in health outcomes among Black mothers throughout the United States. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among high-income nations. While this crisis affects all mothers, Black mothers are disproportionately likely to die due to pregnancy complications.

Several factors contribute to Black mothers’ increased mortality rate, including:

  • Limited access to high-quality medical care due to geographic factors and the potentially high cost of needed treatments
  • Organizational structures and policies that provide inadequate support for Black mothers
  • A lack of sufficient data and understanding on the part of organizations and providers regarding the health needs and circumstances of individual Black mothers and their children

At Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, Black maternal health is important to us, and we have initiated and continually improved upon several programs designed to create a more equitable care environment for mothers at our hospital. For example, our CenteringPregnancy program offers pre-natal care in a group setting facilitated by doctors, nurses, and midwives, where expectant mothers with similar due dates can share experiences, receive support, and learn effective ways of staying healthy throughout pregnancy.

In addition to CenteringPregnancy, our hospital also offers access to midwife care and support from doulas, who help to ensure that mothers receive the guidance and support they need throughout their care. We also adhere to the Respectful Care at Birth initiative, a New York City Department of Health program focused on:

  • Providing easy-to-understand information about pregnancy, childbirth, and the care you will receive
  • Providing a sanitary, supportive environment in which to receive the care you need and give birth to your child
  • Supporting the ability and authority of mothers to make informed decisions about their care
  • Reinforcing the expectation that patients of all races and backgrounds will be treated with dignity and respect throughout their care
  • Ensuring that mothers have the support they need in terms of information, care, and having family members (or other people of their choosing) present during their care

No matter your race or background, you can always expect to receive comprehensive, high-quality maternal care at Jamaica Hospital’s Women’s Health Center. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call (718) 291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

National Endometriosis Awareness Month

A woman holding her stomach due to pain from endometriosis.March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is a condition that affects the lining of the uterus (also known as the endometrium); it currently affects an estimated 176 million women around the globe. Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Pain during pelvic examinations
  • Severe pain during menstruation
  • Pain during urination or a bowel movement
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infertility

Symptoms of endometriosis tend to appear during reproductive years, between the ages of 12 and 60. The highest number of cases are diagnosed between the ages of 25 to 35; however, some women with endometriosis remain undiagnosed because they do not have symptoms. Additionally, this disorder can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions.

Endometriosis causes the inner lining of the uterus to grow outside of the uterus. This most commonly affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, ligaments that support the uterus, and the areas between the rectum and the vagina. Rarely, endometriosis can also occur in the lungs, thighs, arms, and other parts of the body that are more distant from reproductive organs.

When endometrial tissue spreads, it develops into growths called implants. These clumps of tissue are affected by the menstrual cycle as though they were inside of the uterus, regardless of their actual location. Each month, they build up, break down, and shed. However, endometrial tissue cannot be discharged from the body if it is not inside the uterus; as a result, these implants cause inflammation, swelling, internal bleeding, and the formation of scar tissue.

Doctors do not yet know what causes endometriosis, but certain risk factors have been identified that may make you more likely to develop it. These include:

  • An immediate family member with endometriosis
  • An abnormal uterus
  • Menstruation that begins before the age of 11
  • Shorter menstrual periods, lasting less than 27 days on average
  • Heavy menstruation that lasts for more than one week

If you experience symptoms of endometriosis, your doctor can perform a variety of tests, such as pelvic examinations, laparoscopy, and imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to accurately diagnose it. While there is no cure for endometriosis, your doctor can work with you to develop an effective treatment that may incorporate options such as medication, surgery, or alternative therapies.

You can schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center to receive high-quality treatment for endometriosis. To learn more, please call (718) 291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is Uterine Cancer?

Uterine cancer occurs in the uterus, the part of a woman’s reproductive system where a fetus develops during pregnancy. Approximately 3% of all people assigned female at birth are diagnosed with uterine cancer at some point during their lives.

There are two types of uterine cancer. The most common form is endometrial cancer, which develops in the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium). Uterine sarcoma, which develops in the muscle wall of the uterus (the myometrium) occurs much more rarely.

Endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma share some symptoms. These include:

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or after menopause
  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Thin white or clear vaginal discharge after menopause
  • Heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding after the age of 40

People with uterine sarcoma may also experience a feeling of fullness in the abdomen, frequent urination, and constipation.

While there’s no clear cause for either form of uterine cancer, certain factors can increase your risk, such as:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Ovarian diseases that raise estrogen levels and lower progesterone levels
  • Long lifetime menstruation period, beginning before the age of 12 and/or ending after the age of 50
  • Not getting pregnant
  • Medical treatments that cause radiation exposure to the pelvic region or increase estrogen levels

Treatment for uterine cancer typically involves surgery combined with additional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and medication that targets specific cancer cells.

The surgery most commonly performed to treat uterine cancer is a hysterectomy, which involves the removal of the uterus and cervix. You may also require a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which involves the removal of your ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent the further spread of the cancer, as well as lymph node dissection, which involves the removal of lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread.

If you are experiencing symptoms of uterine cancer and require a diagnosis or treatment, you can schedule an appointment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center by calling (718) 291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is Eclampsia?

Eclampsia is a condition that causes seizures during pregnancy. It is a rare complication in people with preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure and protein in urine during pregnancy. Eclampsia generally occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy and requires emergency medical care.

Aside from seizures, people with eclampsia may also experience severe distress, confusion, or loss of consciousness. Before the onset of these symptoms, certain warning signs may occur, such as:

  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Distorted vision or loss of vision
  • Swelling of the hands, face, or ankles
  • Difficulty breathing or urinating
  • Abdominal pain, particularly on the upper right side of the abdomen

A few factors may increase a person’s risk of developing eclampsia. These include:

  • A family or personal history of preeclampsia or eclampsia (though most people with preeclampsia do not develop this condition)
  • Being pregnant for the first time
  • Twins or triplets
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy at an age younger than 17 or older than 35

While certain factors that increase your risk of eclampsia may be beyond your control, there are steps you can take to manage many of them. You should attend all of your pre-natal medical appointments and get prompt care from your doctor as needed, particularly if you experience symptoms of preeclampsia. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced, moderate diet and regular exercise can help to control your blood pressure.

If you have been diagnosed with eclampsia, your doctor may suggest inducing labor if the fetus is at 37 weeks gestation or more, as this is the most effective means of treating the condition and protecting the health of yourself and your baby. During pregnancy, you may also be prescribed medication to prevent seizures, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the fetus’ lungs.

You can receive treatment for eclampsia at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 291-3276. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911 immediately.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is Female Pattern Baldness?

Approximately one in three women will experience hair loss at some point within their lifetime, with about 55% losing some amount of hair by the age of 70.

The most common cause of hair loss in women is female pattern baldness. There’s no specific known cause for female pattern baldness, but several factors have been identified that may be linked to it. These include aging, changes in androgen levels, a family history of male or female pattern baldness, significant blood loss during menstrual periods, and certain medications, such as birth control pills.

In most cases, female pattern baldness begins in the crown of the scalp and the top of the head, becoming thinner in these areas over time. While the hairline does not recede beyond average levels, the center part of the hair that runs across the top of the head may become wider. Unlike male pattern baldness, however, female pattern baldness does not typically result in an eventual total loss of hair.

Hair loss may also be an indicator of other, potentially more serious conditions. Alternative causes such as alopecia areata, which causes your immune system to attack your hair follicles, are not particularly dangerous to your health. However, causes of hair loss such as thyroid disease or anemia are potentially life-threatening illnesses if they are not adequately managed.

If you begin to experience symptoms of female pattern baldness, you should speak with a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. Certain signs, such as new hair growth on your face or in other abnormal parts of your body, may indicate heightened levels of androgen and support female pattern baldness as the most likely cause of your hair loss. A dermatologist can also perform a skin biopsy or blood test to diagnose you.

To schedule an appointment with a dermatologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call our Ambulatory Care Center at (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Ovarian Cysts

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office Of Women’s Health defines ovarian cysts as fluid-filled sacs in the ovary.  Ovarian cysts are common and usually form during ovulation. Most women will develop cysts at least once in their lifetime.

The two most common types of ovarian cysts are follicle and corpus luteum cysts. Other cysts that are less common include endometriomas, dermoids, and cystadenomas.

Anyone born female is at risk for developing ovarian cysts; however, the risk factor is higher with

  • Previous ovarian cysts
  • Hormonal problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe pelvic infections
  • Endometriosis

In most cases, ovarian cysts are symptomless and do not lead to further complications. They typically disappear within a few months without treatment. However, if cysts continue to grow and become enlarged, twisted, or ruptured, symptoms such as pelvic pain, bloating, painful intercourse, and pain in the lower back or thighs can occur.  Cysts can also lead to complications such as infertility.

If you are experiencing symptoms, speak with your doctor.  If cysts are discovered after a thorough examination and testing, your doctor will determine the course of treatment based on the type of cyst and severity.  Medication or surgery may be recommended.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Spina Bifida Awareness Month

Approximately 1,400 babies are born with spina bifida in the United States each year. It can affect every child differently, but typically comes in three main forms: spina bifida occulta, meningocele, and myelomeningocele.

Spina bifida occulta, or “hidden” spina bifida, is the most common form of the condition, affecting up to 15% of the general population. It’s also the mildest form of spina bifida; a gap forms in the spine, but no opening or growth develops in a baby’s back and the spinal cord and nerves are left relatively unaffected.

Another form of spina bifida, meningocele, causes a sac of fluid to develop in a baby’s back, but does not contain any part of the spinal cord and causes little to no nerve damage, leading to only minor disabilities.

The most serious form of this condition, myelomeningocele, typically involves a sac of fluid forming within a gap in a baby’s back which may contain part of the spinal cord and nerves, potentially leading to severe disabilities in a person’s lower body.

Spina bifida is usually diagnosed within the first 28 days of pregnancy through an alpha-fetoprotein test, an ultrasound, or an amniocentesis test, though in certain cases, it may be diagnosed after birth.

Several comorbidities are associated with spina bifida. Approximately 68% of children diagnosed with the condition develop a latex allergy. Additionally, it increases a child’s risk of experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Eighty percent of children with spina bifida also develop hydrocephalus, a condition which causes an abnormal buildup of fluid in the ventricles of the brain.

Due to the symptoms of spina bifida and the various conditions that may accompany it, people with this condition undergo an average of at least eight surgeries by 18 years of age. Many babies will require spinal surgery to prevent further injury and infection, and babies who also develop hydrocephalus will require a ventricular shunt, which may need to be replaced once they reach two years of age as well as several years later.

While there is no cure for spina bifida, surgery can prevent the condition from worsening. Additionally, pre-natal care can help prevent spina bifida from developing. Four hundred micrograms of folic acid are recommended for new mothers every day before and during early pregnancy. Controlling fevers, body heat, and chronic conditions such as diabetes or obesity can also help.

A doctor can help you identify potential risks and create a treatment plan to prevent spina bifida and other congenital conditions at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center. To schedule an appointment or receive more information, please call (718) 291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Jamaica Hospital Welcomes Dr. Ugochi Akoma

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center would like to introduce our community to Dr. Ugochi Akoma, our new Obstetric Gynecologist, specializing in Maternal Fetal Medicine.

Dr Akoma, who grew up in the South Bronx, earned her Bachelor and Doctor of Medicine degrees at Brown University. She returned to her Bronx roots to complete her residency at the Montefiore, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  After completing her residency training, Dr. Akoma demonstrated her commitment to her caring for her community by dedicating five years of clinical service to treat thousands of underserved pregnant women in the Bronx.

During that time, Dr. Akoma encountered many high-risk patients facing challenges such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and infections in pregnancy. These experiences further inspired her goal to complete a fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. There she acquired the necessary tools to provide her patients with an expertise in diagnosing and managing high risk pregnancy conditions.  

Dr. Akoma joined Jamaica Hospital earlier this year and her current title is Director of Perinatal Diagnostic Centers- Obstetric Ultrasound, and Director of Quality Improvement in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In addition to her training in the medical and surgical management of high-risk pregnancies, Dr. Akoma also specializes in the management of a broad range of high-risk complex medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia, multifetal pregnancy, cervical insufficiency, preterm birth, and placental previa.

 Dr Akoma is a first generation American who understands the health disparities many women in our community face due to reduced access to safe housing, healthy foods, education, and quality health care. Dr. Akoma recounts, “After attending the best Ivy League undergraduate and medical schools, and residency programs, and having been a witness to seeing the vast health inequities in my community, I made a personal commitment to come back home and work towards the goal of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality and adverse outcomes.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Akoma, please call Jamaica Hospital’s Women’s Health Center at 718-291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Birth Defects

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Birth defects are defined as conditions that are present when a baby is born and can affect nearly every part of the body.  Conditions such as cleft lip can be easily diagnosed.  Other conditions such as deafness or heart defects may only be discovered after diagnostic testing.

The largest number of birth defects occurs during the first three months of gestation. In the U.S. approximately 120,000 babies are born with birth defects each year.

The 10 most common birth defects in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are:

  • Down syndrome
  • Cleft lip (with or without cleft palate)
  • Atrioventricular septal defect (hole in the heart)
  • Absence or malformation of the rectum and/or large intestine
  • Gastroschisis (hole in the abdominal wall)
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (a combination of heart defects)
  • Spina bifida without anencephaly
  • Reduction deformity, upper limbs
  • Reversal of the heart’s two main arteries

Although birth defects can’t always be prevented, there are plenty of steps pregnant women can take to help reduce the risk.

The womenshealth.gov website offers these suggestions:

  • Make regular visits to your doctor throughout pregnancy
  • Get 400mcg of folic acid each day through diet or supplements
  • Don’t smoke, use illegal drugs or drink alcohol while you are pregnant
  • Always check with your doctor before taking any medication
  • Get all vaccinations recommended by your doctor
  • If you have diabetes, keep it under control
  • Stick to a healthy weight

You may also request a pre-pregnancy or early pregnancy screening test in order to spot potential or real birth defects.  The types of tests include a carrier test to see if you or your partner carries potentially harmful genes, as well as screening and diagnostic tests that can determine risks for and detect genetic disorders.

If you are pregnant, or planning to be, and want to discuss your options with one of our doctors, the Women’s Health Center at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is centrally located and has convenient hours; to make an appointment call 718-291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Jamaica Hospital Offers A Virtual Prenatal Experience For Women

Being pregnant can be very challenging, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the issues that a growing number of pregnant women are encountering at this time is loneliness.

Studies show that over 50% of expecting mothers admit to feeling extremely lonely and isolated because they are spending more time at home, and away from others.  These factors are believed to be contributors to a rise in prenatal depression.

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center hopes to provide a solution to this problem by offering pregnant women a safe place where they feel supported. By moving its CenteringPregnancy program to a virtual space, patients of the hospital can receive prenatal care and actively engage with a community of healthcare providers and fellow moms on Zoom.

In the CenteringPregnancy program at Jamaica Hospital, patients with similar due dates are invited to participate in group sessions facilitated by doctors or midwives.  Participants meet every two or four weeks (depending on gestational age) and interact with nutritionists, lactation consultants and other healthcare providers.  A variety of topics including mental health, breastfeeding and labor preparation are discussed. Special guest speakers from organizations such as Safe Sleep and Queens Healthy Start are also invited to share information and connect moms to helpful resources.

Before their first group session, patients attend an in-person orientation where they are given a Centering prenatal kit. This consists of a scale, blood pressure monitor, fetal Doppler, books and other materials, all of which are needed to participate in the program.  Participants are trained on how to use each item to monitor their baby’s development and record vital health information.  Patients report this information to their providers in a private session before the start of every group meeting.

While engagement and group discussions are encouraged among participants, there are 1-on-1, break-away sessions during each meeting. Here, mothers can speak privately with facilitators about any concerns or questions they may have. If a patient’s needs cannot be addressed via Zoom, an appointment will be scheduled to see their doctor at the Women’s Health Center where strict COVID-19 safety protocols are followed.

Jamaica Hospital’s virtual CenteringPregnancy program has been highly successful. The program has earned recognition from leading institutions and is used to demonstrate the benefits of virtual prenatal care to other medical facilities.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the pregnancy experience for a lot of women, and we are constantly thinking of ways to make it as positive as we can,” said Patricia Fox, Certified Midwife.  “Our team has established this unique, virtual platform so that we can provide our patients with a healthcare service that is convenient, safe and supportive. We understand how important these things are during these unprecedented times,” shared Thalita Viruet, Practice Manager for the Women’s Health Center.

To learn more about Centering at Jamaica Hospital, please call our Women’s Health Department at 718-291-3276.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.