The 36-year-old professional tennis player, who gave birth to her daughter Olympia in September 2017, said she considers herself “fortunate” because despite having an emergency C-section, the surgery went smoothly.
Williams wrote about her experiences in an article for CNN, while also urging for people to support UNICEF’s Every Child Alive campaign because “every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth”.
“I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia,” Williams wrote. “While I had a pretty easy pregnancy, my daughter was born by emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped dramatically during contractions.
“Before I knew it, Olympia was in my arms. It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life. But what followed just 24 hours after giving birth were six days of uncertainty.”
Williams explained she had a pulmonary embolism, which is when the arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot. She said this sparked a “slew” of health complications. Her C-section wound popped open due to intense coughing and she had to return to surgery, where it was found she had a swelling of clotted blood in her abdomen.
When she was finally able to go home, Williams spent her first six weeks as a new mum in bed.
“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 weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Williams explained that her experience caused her to realise that many women giving birth in the poorest countries often don’t have access to the necessary help, health facilities, doctors or drugs when they have birth complications.
She urged people to get involved and learn about UNICEF’s Every Child Alive campaign, demanding governments, businesses and health care providers do more to save these precious lives. “Together, we can make this change. Together, we can be the change,” she added.
Williams first spoke out about her traumatic birth and her struggle to adjust to motherhood in January 2018 in an interview with Vogue. “Sometimes I get really down and feel like, man, I can’t do this,” she said. “It’s that same negative attitude I have on the court sometimes. I guess that’s just who I am. No one talks about the low moments - the pressure you feel, the incredible letdown every time you hear the baby cry.
“I’ve broken down I don’t know how many times. Or I’ll get angry about the crying, then sad about being angry, and then guilty, like, Why do I feel so sad when I have a beautiful baby? The emotions are insane.”