- Serena Williams reveals that she almost died giving birth to her daughter, Olympia.
- In a first-person account for CNN, Williams detailed the pulmonary embolism she suffered and the other complications that followed after her emergency C-section.
- Williams told her story in an effort to raise awareness for the high rates of childbirth-related deaths among black women and the poor.
In a first-person account for CNN, Serena Williams reveals that she almost died following the birth of her daughter in September.
“I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia,” Williams wrote.
Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism, the blockage of an artery in the lungs, after having an emergency C-section. Williams has a history of blood cot issues and knew to immediately seek medical help when her breathing became difficult, however, the embolism led to other complications.
During an interview with Vogue in January, Williams revealed that she had to convince the doctors and nurses to look for blood clots in her lungs.
“She walked out of the hospital room so her mother wouldn’t worry and told the nearest nurse, between gasps, that she needed a CT scan with contrast and IV heparin (a blood thinner) right away. The nurse thought her pain medicine might be making her confused. But Serena insisted, and soon enough a doctor was performing an ultrasound of her legs. ‘I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,’ she remembers telling the team. The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was on the drip. ‘I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!'”
The blood cot led to “intense coughing,” which in turn caused Williams’ C-section wound to pop open. When she returned to surgery, doctors discovered a large hematoma (clotted blood) in her abdomen. This led to another procedure to keep any additional clots from traveling to the lungs.
Williams says she was confined to a bed for six weeks after the birth of her daughter.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion wrote about her experience to help bring awareness to the higher rate of childbirth-related deaths among black women and people in poor countries.
Williams wrote that she considers herself “fortunate” and “grateful,” noting she had access to good doctors and nurses, and was in a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. She also knows many others aren’t as well-off.
“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,” Williams wrote. “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.”
Williams called on people to demand governments, businesses and health care providers do more to help and for people to donate to organizations such as UNICEF.