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Chester County mothers band together to fight Black maternal mortality health crisis

Chester County mothers band together to fight Black maternal health crisis
Chester County mothers band together to fight Black maternal health crisis 02:25

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa (CBS) – Several groups gathered in Chester County Friday to fight racial bias hurting Black birthing mothers and their babies.

"I was excited. We had been trying to get pregnant for a long time," said Talonda Rogers, a Black mother and the founder of The 4th Trimester mothers' advocacy group.

She remembered the joy of being pregnant in March 2000. Her emotions quickly changed, as she described feeling ignored when she told her medical team something was wrong.

"I had blurred vision," Rogers said. "I couldn't see you standing there. My mouth was so dry."

Rogers later found out she had gestational diabetes that she said went untreated. She still mourns the baby boy she miscarried.

"I can just say that it is a physical broken heart," Rogers said. 

Jenné Johns, another Black mother, describes almost having the same fate. Her son was born 14 weeks prematurely. Today, he is 10 years old.

"I had not known that water can break as early as it did," Johns said. 

Both mothers spoke to shocking numbers showing Black moms are more likely to have pregnancy complications and Black babies are more likely to die than their white counterparts.

"If one in 10 babies in the U.S. and in Pennsylvania continue to be born preterm, and that rate is 49% higher for Black moms, we need to do something different," Johns said.

These mothers aren't alone in fighting the Black maternal mortality epidemic. They joined advocates at Lincoln University in Chester County Friday to discuss solutions. So did Cheryl Miles, who co-founded Black Women of Chester County in Action.

"So, everyone needs to be continually updated in the medical treatment for women in general, but specifically for Black women," she said.

Health advocates shared solutions, like simply listening to Black women, to combat racial bias.

"If we make sure that the systems are respectfully engaging the women into treatment," Miles explained, "we will have more successful outcomes."

To help get those outcomes, Johns founded the nonprofit Once Upon a Preemie. Her group focuses on training medical staff to listen to and advocate for Black women. 

"During what should be the most joyful times of their lives, we're doing something right," she said.

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