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Serena William's postpartum ordeal is tip of the iceberg

Serena William's postpartum ordeal is tip of the iceberg


Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Pregnancy

Tennis star Serena William’s account of postpartum complications is a harrowing read, but it also points to a much bigger problem in our healthcare system that’s only recently started to draw public attention.

Women in the United States, particularly African-Americans, are suffering pregnancy and delivery-related complications at an alarming rate, and are more likely to die from those complications than women in any other developed country. It’s estimated that up to 60 percent of these complications may be preventable. Complications can include blood clots, such as those suffered by Williams.

Around 700 women perish as a result of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For African American women the risk is stunningly high. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely than white women to die as a result of pregnancy.


Photo by James Gourley/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

Understanding why is complicated. Media outlets led by ProPublica have been delving into the topic over the past several months. Their reports and interviews with experts and women themselves point to a variety of challenges disproportionately affecting African American expectant moms, from lack of access to good healthcare and health insurance, to high prevalence of chronic conditions such as hypertension that make it more dangerous to have a baby.

Reporters and experts identified another possible factor too: racism. African American women, even those who were well off and educated, often described being treated with disdain by medical professionals when they expressed concerns about their pregnancy or postpartum health.

Serena Williams’ story certainly seems to fit this narrative. If a multimillionaire tennis superstar has trouble getting medical staff to take her postpartum health complaints seriously, imagine how hard it could be for regular moms.

Still, don’t panic. Deaths from pregnancy and childbirth remain pretty rare. To help keep yourself safe, read up on pregnancy complications to look out for and warning signs of postpartum problems.

Have you or do you know of someone who’s suffered pregnancy-related health problems? Tell us about it.

The post Serena William's postpartum ordeal is tip of the iceberg appeared first on BabyCenter Blog.

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