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Serena Williams Nearly Died After Giving Birth. Now She's Advocating for Better Maternal Healthcare

From TIME - February 20, 2018

The major health complications that Serena Williams battled after giving birth to her now-5-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia has inspired the tennis champion to speak out about the importance of affordable health care.

In an opinion piece on CNN.com published Tuesday, Williamswhos married to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanianopened up more about her personal battles and how they relate to the problems women have worldwide, writing, Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Williams, 36, said she almost died after giving birth to her first child on Sept. 1. Her heart rate plummeted to dangerously low levels during contractions, causing doctors to perform an emergency cesarean section.

Though the surgery went well, what followed was a six-day battle with a pulmonary embolism (a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked by a blood clot) that led to multiple surgeries and a handful of additional medical troubles for the new mom.

I am lucky to have survived, Williams recalled. 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, she explained. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed.

As bad as that was, Williams said she was appreciative of the medical support she received. I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment, she wrote. They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it werent for their professional care, I wouldnt be here today.

Quoting statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she noted how black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.

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