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Virtua Hospital​ addresses issues of maternal mortality for Black women

Virtua Hospital holds events to address alarming maternal mortality rate for Black women
Virtua Hospital holds events to address alarming maternal mortality rate for Black women 02:17

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among high-income countries, and for Black women, it's an alarming trend.

It's Black Maternal Health Week and Virtua Hospital has a series of events addressing the issue.

We talked to one mom who explains how she learned the lesson of being an advocate for herself.

"It was a very scary situation," Jeffries said.

Amber Jeffries had appendicitis when she was pregnant. It was misdiagnosed as a bladder infection.

"I just felt like I was blown off and wasn't listened to," Jeffries said. "I know what pain feels like, if I'm telling you I'm in pain I feel like you should listen to me."

Research shows Black women are often ignored or mistreated in medical situations with deadly results. Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women, according to the CDC.

"Why is that the case how do we change that?" Dr. Angela Bess said.

In the panel discussion held for Black Maternal Health Week, Virtua Health doctors are working to expand and improve services.

"A lot of times it's overwhelming," Dr. Theresa Adeliyi said.

Dr. Adeliyi with Virtua Women's Center says there are complicated reasons for the disparities Black women face.

"The determinants of health in terms of access I think the implicit biases that judge how we evaluate patients and last communication," Adeliyi said.

Doctors say conditions like pulmonary embolism, preeclampsia, and hypertension are avoidable if treated early in pregnancy but Black mothers are dying from these problems.

"It becomes a norm and it shouldn't be," Jeffries said.

She says she quickly learned to listen to her body and advocate for herself.

"Find someone who will listen to you," Jeffries said. "If that first person doesn't listen to you because it could be life or death."

She says it's an especially important message for Black women.

"Be strong and confident in yourself," Jeffries said.

Jeffries ended up having emergency surgery at Virtua where she says she finally found the doctors and the kind of treatment she needed.

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