‘Doctors Aren’t Listening To Us’ – Serena Williams On Why Black Women Are Dying During Childbirth

Serena Williams says its ‘heartbreaking’ black women are more likely than white women to die from complications in pregnancy.


The tennis champion became a mother for the first time last September when she gave birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. Though she joked that she and baby Olympia are “not spending a day apart until she’s eighteen,” giving birth to her daughter almost cost Williams her life.

Williams thinks one reason black women are more than three times as likely as their white counterparts to die during pregnancy or childbirth is that many doctors don’t take the concerns of Black women seriously.


“Doctors aren’t listening to us, just to be quite frank,” Williams said during an interview with BBC. “I was in a really fortunate situation where I know my body well, and I am who I am, and I told the doctor: ‘I don’t feel right, something’s wrong.’ She immediately listened.”

The day after giving birth to her daughter through an emergency cesarean section, Williams felt short of breath and worried she had a pulmonary embolism, a condition that previously sidelined her career for nearly a year.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles winner told a nurse she needed a CT scan, but the woman brushed her aside. When she spoke to her doctor, Williams again said she needed the procedure, and her physician listened. The CT scan found several blood clots in Williams’ lungs, which could have easily been deadly.

“I had a wonderful, wonderful doctor. Unfortunately, a lot of African Americans and Black people don’t have the same experience that I’ve had,” she said.

“Because of what I went through, it would be really difficult if I didn’t have the healthcare that I have – and to imagine all the other women that do go through that without the same healthcare, without the same response, it’s upsetting,” Williams said.

“I think it’s important to speak up loud and clear and say: ‘No, this isn’t right. Treat me the same way that you’re treating [someone else],” she said.