Serena Williams opens up about her dangerous delivery
Recently, tennis superstar Serena Williams spoke publicly about a life-threatening experience after giving birth, raising awareness about health issues during and after labor and the importance of self-advocacy.
In September, Williams gave birth to her daughter via emergency C-section after her heart rate dove dangerously low during contractions. The next day, she felt short of breath and assumed she was having a pulmonary embolism, a medical condition caused by blood clots traveling into the lungs from elsewhere in the body.
Knowing that, Williams told her nurse she needed a specific CT scan to find the clots, but the nurse thought Williams’s pain medication could be making her confused. A pair of inconclusive tests later, a doctor gave her the test she requested and confirmed her fears.
Ultimately, she spent the next six weeks bedridden after further complications.
Dr. Jennifer Balash, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says even the healthiest of women need to understand that pregnancy poses a risk to their health.
“It is important for women to be open with their physician about their medical history and to optimize their health prior to pregnancy,” she says.
Williams is one of the estimated 50,000 women per year that experience some type of maternal morbidity, or unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant consequences to a woman’s health, a number that is increasing in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700 women die each year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.
Blood clots, hypertensive diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular complications and many other processes can develop in otherwise healthy women during an otherwise normal pregnancy, Dr. Balash says. Other risk factors for maternal morbidity include advanced maternal age, maternal obesity and other pre-existing medical problems.
Regular prenatal care with a physician or midwife is the best way to be sure that any complication or issue is quickly recognized and addressed, she says.
Still, they should also feel empowered to talk to their physicians and support staff throughout their pregnancy and after delivery.
“I personally feel that everyone I work with is always open to listening to the concerns of patients and their families, but I also know that isn’t always the case in health care, unfortunately,” she says.
“My biggest piece of advice would be for patients and their family members to not hesitate to speak up and voice their concern. If something doesn’t seem right, let your doctor know.”
To discuss questions or concerns you may have, or to simply begin routine physicals, schedule an appointment with an OB/Gyn near you.
About the Author
Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.