Serena Williams Delivery Story Highlights Childbirth Risks for Black Women

Serena Wiliams February 2018 Vogue spread with 4-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. caused women everywhere to coo over the bundle of joy and glowing first time mommy. After her much publicized fairy tale wedding, Serena is a shining illustration of a seemingly picture perfect life.

However, in her candid interview with Vogue, Serena opens up about her not so perfect childbirth experience. She details her emergency c-section and life-saving self-diagnosis after her medical staff didn’t immediately have regard for her concerns.

Thankfully, the new mom is well and lived to tell a story that is more common than not with black mothers. Due to the well known racial disparities in America, black women’s experience with motherhood is very unique and sometimes fatal.

While the following information should not scare black women into not having children (if they desire them), it’s important to know our specific risks so that we can plan our pregnancies accordingly.

Take a look at our childbirth facts list below to learn more about how childbirth affects you as a black woman (click each fact for more information):

Black women are 243 percent more likely than white women to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes

Black women are 2-3 times more likely to die during childbirth than white women

Black women are 49% more likely to deliver prematurely than white women

Black infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white infants

From 2011-2013, black women experienced roughly 43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births on average, compared to 12.7 deaths for white mothers

Approximately 50,000 American women deal with dangerous or life threatening pregnancy complications each year

American women die during childbirth more than three times the rate of women in the United Kingdom, and about eight times the rates of women in the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden

Maternal deaths have been on the rise in the US, increasing by 27 percent, to 24 deaths per 100,000 births, between 2000 and 2014

NYC black college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals are more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school

Due to stress, maternal complications that happen with a white woman in her 40’s are more likely to happen with a black woman in her 30’s

Black women are nearly twice as likely to have infertility problems as white women

When black women undergo fertility treatment, there’s much less likelihood that the treatments will succeed

African American women have higher rates of C-section and are more than twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital in the month following the surgery

Black women have disproportionate rates of preeclampsia and peripartum cardiomyopathy (a type of heart failure), two leading killers in the days and weeks after delivery

Black women twice as likely as white women to have postpartum depression

Black women are much less likely to receive mental health treatment for postpartum depression

If black women experience discrimination or disrespect during pregnancy or childbirth, they may be more likely to skip postpartum visits

The important points to take from this information are:

1. If you have a doctor that doesn’t take your pregnancy concerns seriously, find another who will

2. Be diligent about choosing a healthcare provider that instinctively feels right for you and your child

3. Pay close attention to your body while pregnant and if you feel something isn’t right, seek care immediately

4. Never skip out on prenatal care or miss a doctor’s appointment

5. Consider your timing, financial position, age and mental health before getting pregnant as these are all factors that affect the outcome of childbirth

All in all motherhood is beautiful and children can be a pleasure to have. Hopefully with this knowledge, you can make your experience even better.

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