Beyoncé had no choice but to deliver her twins Sir and Rumi last June via emergency Caesarean section due to a condition known as toxemia (also known as preeclampsia). Prior to giving birth, the singer was bedridden for a month because of the condition.
Serena Williams also delivered her daughter Alexis Olympia via emergency C-section, but her experience was near-fatal. Williams is prone to developing blood clots, which caused complications after she gave birth to her daughter. During a severe coughing fit, her stitches were damaged and her doctors discovered a hematoma in her abdomen. Because of this, Williams had to spend the first six weeks she was home from the hospital in bed.
Because of how open Beyoncé and Serena Williams were concerning their near-fatal experiences with pregnancy, more light is being shed on the issue of maternal mortality. Roughly 700 women die due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Additionally, black women are three to four times more likely to be at risk for pregnancy-related deaths, which makes Beyoncé and Williams’ voices on the matter even more critical. This racial disparity in terms of fatal pregnancy complications is due to systemic issues that begin simply with social inequities such as access to healthy food and clean water.
When Williams reflects on her time spent in the hospital, she remembers not being taken very seriously during the coughing fit that almost turned deadly. When Williams told her nurse that she thought she needed further medical attention for the pain she was experiencing, her nurse responded by telling her that the pain medication had probably left her confused.
This gaslighting of mothers during childbirth is quite common across the United States. However, pregnancy is not the only feminine health issue where women face gaslighting. Many women who suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a disease affecting the ovaries, often suffer in silence because their doctors cannot recognize the signs and symptoms.
Sasha Ottey, founder of the nonprofit PCOS Challenge: The National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association, commented on this issue: “Many women and young girls are told, ‘Oh, it’s all in your head. Just eat less and exercise more.’”
Beyoncé and Serena Williams have contributed more to modern day women’s health than they may realize, just by speaking about the deadly issues they faced during their respective pregnancies. With their voices, women – especially black women – have been made more aware of the sides of pregnancy no one seems to talk about.
Those who have experienced fatal issues during their own pregnancies now have two powerful women to whom they can connect and relate.
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