Tennis champion Serena Williams says giving birth to her daughter in September was “an amazing feeling” but also extraordinarily frightening.
Speaking to Vogue, the 36-year-old said she endured an emergency c-section after the baby’s heart rate dropped, blood clots in her lungs and hemorrhaging in her abdomen.
Williams went into labour on September 1 last year but, during contractions, her baby’s heart rate plunged to dangerous levels. The tennis star was rushed into surgery for an emergency caesarean, which – like the pregnancy – went utterly smoothly.
Her now-husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, cut the cord and laid little Alexis Olympia on Williams’ chest. “It was an amazing feeling,” Williams told Vogue. “And then everything went bad.”
Having suffered with blood clots her whole life, Williams knew the dangers when she began feeling short of breath the day after giving birth. She hadn’t been taking her usual anti-coagulant medication following the surgery, and she thought she might be suffering a pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs).
Careful not to alarm her mother, Williams left her room to ask the nurse for a CT scan and IV heparin (a blood thinner).
The doctors sent her for an ultrasound instead, which didn’t show anything. “I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,” Williams said.
Finally, after a CT scan did show multiple blood clots in her lungs, Williams was given the blood-thinning medication she knew she needed. “I was like, listen to Dr Williams!” she recalled.
Pulmonary embolisms can be fatal, and each year in Australia there are up to 400 deaths from the condition, according to the government’s Department of Health.