“I Almost Died”: Serena Williams Shares Childbirth Story To Help New Moms Worldwide Gain Access To Better Healthcare

February 20, 2018  |  

Serena Williams pulmonary embolism

Getty

Serena Williams absolutely loves motherhood, but the journey to this point was incredibly tough for the 36-year-old. She opened up about that struggle for the first time in the February issue of Vogue, but went a step further to advocate for better healthcare for women giving birth around the world. She shared her story on CNN.com in an effort to raise awareness as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. “I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia,” she wrote. “Yet I consider myself fortunate.”

“It began with a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked by a blood clot,” she said. “Because of my medical history with this problem, I live in fear of this situation. So, when I fell short of breath, I didn’t wait a second to alert the nurses.”

“This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived,” she continued. “First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed.”

While Williams had top doctors helping her, most women, Black women especially, aren’t given the same access to avoid losing their children and/or their own lives during and after childbirth.

“I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment,” she said. “They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes,” she continued. “But this is not just a challenge in the United States. Around the world, thousands of women struggle to give birth in the poorest countries. When they have complications like mine, there are often no drugs, health facilities or doctors to save them. If they don’t want to give birth at home, they have to travel great distances at the height of pregnancy. Before they even bring a new life into this world, the cards are already stacked against them.”
Williams encouraged people through her essay to use their voices and resources to help make a change and save lives.
“Across the globe, organizations like UNICEF are committed to delivering simple solutions on behalf of every mother and newborn,” she said. “These solutions include recruiting and training more doctors and midwives, guaranteeing clean and functional health facilities, making the top 10 lifesaving drugs and equipment available, and most importantly, empowering adolescent girls to demand quality care. Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. And you can help make this a reality.”
“You can demand governments, businesses and health care providers do more to save these precious lives,” she added. “You can donate to UNICEF and other organizations around the world working to make a difference for mothers and babies in need. In doing so, you become part of this narrative — making sure that one day, who you are or where you are from does not decide whether your baby gets to live or to die.”

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