How Serena Williams Saved Her Own Life After Giving Birth

close up shot of Serena Williams smiling in a black top with silver jewelry

By Elyse Johnson |

close up shot of Serena Williams smiling in a black top with silver jewelry

(Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Serena Williams is one of the strongest athletic competitors in sports history. The tennis player has won various championships and holds the most Grand Slam titles among any active player. Williams is known for her competitiveness and determination on the court, and that same mentality may have saved Williams’ life off the court.

Williams became a mom in 2017, a few months after getting engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The athlete gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September that year. She’s shared her experience giving birth to her daughter and how one life-threatening moment changed her perspective on life and motherhood.

Serena Williams’ Fight Off The Court

The tennis player shared during an interview with Vogue magazine that, while she had an easy pregnancy, the tennis star faced complications while giving birth. Williams had an emergency cesarean due to her daughter’s heart rate dropping dangerously low while Williams had contractions. While recovering from her the operation, the athlete experienced shortness of breath and assumed she was suffering from a pulmonary embolism — a condition she’s painfully familiar with.

Serena Williams immediately sought out help, even though one of the nurses thought that she was merely confused due to her being on medication. “I was like, a Doppler [ultrasound]? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,” the athlete recalled. Even though the ultrasound showed nothing wrong, she pushed for the CT scan. To the doctors’ surprise, the scan revealed blood clots in the tennis star’s lungs, just as she predicted. Soon, she was on a heparin drip — an anticoagulant meant to treat the clots — as she had demanded earlier.

Despite the fact that she caught her own pulmonary embolism, Serena Williams’ ordeal wasn’t over. Stitches from her C-section opened again because of her excessive coughing and the doctors found a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen. Williams had to have surgery again and didn’t leave the hospital until a week after she’d given birth and saved her own life.

Serena’s Challenges As A Mother

Williams revealed that even though she was relieved to have survived the ordeal, she struggled with motherhood in the beginning. “Sometimes I get really down and feel like, ‘Man, I can’t do this.’ 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,” the athlete explained.

Williams credited her mother for helping her relax more around her daughter. She also looks forward to spending more time with her child, whom she can’t get enough of. “We’re not spending a day apart until she’s eighteen,” she joked. The athlete now lives in Florida with her husband and their daughter. As much as she loves being a mother, however, Serena Williams still has that competitive spirit.

“To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom,” she shared. “But not yet. Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams.”