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Black Mothers In Philadelphia, South Jersey More Likely To Die After Giving Birth Than White Moms: 'Scary How High That Is'

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- As health care leaders, advocacy groups and mothers recognize the fifth anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week, numbers compiled by Philadelphia and New Jersey's government reveal persistent disparities for Black mothers.

Philadelphia's Maternal Mortality Review Committee found from 2013 to 2018, "Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women."

In New Jersey, First Lady Tammy Murphy's "Nurture NJ" initiative found a Black New Jersey mother is seven times more likely than a white mother to die from maternity-related complications.

The initiative also reported a Black baby is over three times more likely than a white baby to die before their first birthday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said multiple factors contribute to these disparities, including access to quality health care and implicit racial bias among health care providers.

Sanya Brown, a West Philadelphia resident, gave birth to her son, Aiden Dominic, via an unscheduled cesarean section, after she experienced high blood pressure.

"Holding my little boy for the first time was magical," Brown said. "It was the end of a traumatic day."

Five hours later, Brown developed a postpartum hemorrhage and needed emergency surgery.

"When your dream becomes a nightmare, and you're laying in bed, fighting for your life, and watching your husband crumble in a corner, it's surreal," Brown said. "For me, it was about not leaving my family. It was about my husband and I locking eyes in that room and knowing that we are in this together and knowing that one way or the other, mama was going to come home."

She was discharged a week later, but as the nurses walked her out of the hospital, she said they told her that at least once a week, they have to comfort fathers whose wives died of pregnancy-related complications.

"That just leveled me because that, that might have been our reality," Brown said. "I'm so blessed that it wasn't."

Her family is now serving as ambassadors for March of Dimes' Philadelphia and South Jersey's "March for Babies" to advocate for solutions to the region's maternal health crisis.

"I really feel like sharing the story is about amplifying the mission," Brown said. "It's about creating the space and letting others know that it's OK to share their stories too."

March of Dimes' March for Babies: A Mother of A Movement" will be raising money through a walk in Philadelphia on June 4 at the Please Touch Museum. More information can be found here.

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