Serena Williams has penned an open letter after her scary post-partum story caused a stir online, putting a spotlight on the dangers of childbirth, particularly for Black women.
“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 — who have faced similar complications and women whose problems go unaddressed,” Williams wrote in a Facebook post.
“These aren’t just stories: according to the CDC, (Center for Disease Control) black women are over 3 times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. 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.”
The message was also accompanied by an adorably cute video of her daughter Olympia.
‘EVERY mother deserves a healthy pregnancy and childbirth’
Williams also said that every woman, regardless of race, deserves a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
“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!!!,” she added.
“I want to thank all of you who have opened up through online comments and other platforms to tell your story. I encourage you to continue to tell those stories. This helps. We can help others. Our voices are our power.”
The back story
Serena Williams’ beautiful Vogue cover inspired lots of oohs and aaahs, but the story that accompanied the cover has caused a stir online. In the interview, the newly married tennis pro shared scary post-partum moments that many women on Twitter could unfortunately relate to and they noted how Williams’ celebrity did not spare her from what seemed to be dismissive treatment from hospital staff.
According to Vogue: “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!’”
After that harrowing situation, Williams popped open her fresh C-section wound from the forceful coughing caused by the blood clots. Williams and her daughter are now faring well, but women on Twitter rallied together to highlight that Williams’ post-partum experience is not uncommon for women, especially Black women.
Twitter Data Editor Elaine Filadelpho tweeted “It’s appalling & terrifying what Serena Williams went through post-delivery. I tweetstormed the other day about how women’s pain (esp for birth) isn’t taken seriously – and that’s so compounded for black women. listen. to. women.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy or childbirth. This chilling fact has been noted for decades.
Given this known and dangerous racial disparity, doctors and nurses would do well to listen to Black women when they express pain and discomfort. If doctors don’t even listen to a famous multi-millionaire, imagine what the everyday Black mother endures.