Serena Williams Says She Almost Died From Complications Related to Childbirth

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

In an essay published on CNN on Tuesday, tennis phenom Serena Williams revealed that she almost died from complications resulting from giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, by emergency C-section in September.


Williams wrote that she suffered a pulmonary embolism shortly after giving birth. This resulted in “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.”

Williams ended her piece on a political note citing a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study that found black women in the United States are more three times as likely to die from complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth. “But this is not just a challenge in the United States,” she added.

“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 advocated for donations and direct action:

“You can demand governments, businesses and health care providers do more to save these precious lives. You can donate to UNICEF and other organizations around the world working to make a difference for mothers and babies in need.”


Read Williams’ essay in full here.





The state of aftercare when it comes to mothers, particularly when it comes to women of color, can be abysmal. There was an article a couple of months ago about a woman an acquaintance of mine knew and it’s just so sad. I am so happy that Serena was able to advocate for herself and keep herself safe, because even women who are intelligent and educated and aware of this particular crisis are dying. According to this article, half of maternal deaths occur postpartum, and a third of them are happening a week or more after the birth of the baby. When you are at home trying to figure out life with a tiny new human being, the last thing you should have to worry about is the fact that your life could still be at risk.