Serena Williams didn’t know that her childbirth survival story would spark conversations about maternal mortality and complications, with rates extremely high among Black women.
Williams, like many African-American mothers, faced a matter of life or death when she brought her baby into the world. She made it through childbirth despite harrowing complications: painful contractions exasperated by a decreased heart rate that forced an emergency C-section in September. But Williams became a hero when she had her beautiful baby girl, Olympia, with her new husband, Alexis Ohanian. She faced afterbirth complications including blood clots that caused severe surgeries, but she overcame her struggles.
The tennis star shared her story of strength and survival to the world, a rallying cry for Black women who know her pain all too well.
“I didn’t expect that sharing our family’s story of Olympia’s birth and all of complications after giving birth would start such an outpouring of discussion from women — especially black women,” Williams said in a Facebook video. She acknowledged that many other women of color have faced similar complications and had their health problems go unaddressed.
The tennis pro was one of the fortunate Black women who survived grueling challenges during and after delivery. However, many women sadly don’t make it. Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy or pregnancy-related ailments than White women, according to the Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This abnormally high rate presents a major public health emergency.
Disproportionate rates of Black maternal morbidity during and after childbirth require medical professionals to devise a stronger arsenal of combat weapons, a task that takes much support and advocacy work.
“We have a lot of work to do as a nation and I hope my story can inspire a conversation that gets us to close this gap,” Willliams wrote in her post.
Williams recognizes that every woman who bears a child deserves the most love and care as well as the best medical treatments available.
“Let me be clear: EVERY mother, regardless of race, or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth,” Williams wrote. “I personally want all women of all colors to have the best experience they can have. My personal experience was not great but it was MY experience and I’m happy it happened to me. It made me stronger and it made me appreciate women — both women with and without kids — even more. We are powerful!!!
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