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Catch Being Serena on HBO


In a newly released trailer for her new series titled, Being Serena, a pregnant Serena Williams is seen reflecting on camera about her career and reminiscing about the moment she realized she was pregnant with her first child with now-husband Alexis Ohanian. “When I realized that I was pregnant, I was like, ‘Oh my God, how am I gonna play?’” she says.

The trailer shows plenty of rare footage of Williams training throughout her pregnancy readying herself to return to a world she had dominated for the majority of her adult life. But even in training, Williams was open about admitting she had some doubts about the future. “I don’t know if there’s anything left for me in tennis,” Williams says, “but I’m not done yet.” The trailer also features her fairy-tale wedding to Ohanian and life as a mother to their baby girl.


The series will likely also highlight her difficulty giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., who was born via emergency C-section after the baby’s heart rate dipped. Williams had to undergo further emergency surgery shortly afterward, after several blood clots were found in her lungs. Her essay for CNN said she was “lucky to have survived” and urged readers to donate to UNICEF to raise awareness about the poor conditions women all over the world face when it comes to giving birth. “Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth,” she wrote.

The statistics showing racial disparity in both infant and maternal mortality rates are chilling. According to NPR, black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes.” The high rate of maternal death among black women is primarily responsible for the U.S.’s high maternal mortality rate overall. This disparity persists across economic and education lines; in New York City, for example, college-educated black women are more likely to suffer severe pregnancy or childbirth complications than white women who never graduated high school.

The cause of this disparity is complex. Some look to differences in overall health and chronic illnesses among black and white women as a driving factor for the disparity. For instance, rates of obesity and high blood pressure (or hypertension) — risk factors for pregnancy complications — tend to be higher among black women.

Others point to differences in socioeconomic advantages, access to health care, education, insurance coverage, housing, levels of stress, and community health among black and white women.  Black women in New York City were more likely than white women to give birth in hospitals that already have a high rate of severe maternal morbidity or complications, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology last year. The researchers found that 63% of white patients versus 23% of black patients gave birth in the safest hospitals in the study.
One factor factor that needs further consideration is implicit bias and variations in the ways in which health care is delivered to black versus white women. Even Williams’ celebrity status did not spare her from what seemed to be dismissive treatment from hospital staff.

According to Vogue:

“She walked out of the hospital room so her mother wouldn’t worry and told the nearest nurse, between gasps, that she needed a CT scan with contrast and IV heparin (a blood thinner) right away. The nurse thought her pain medicine might be making her confused. But Serena insisted, and soon enough a doctor was performing an ultrasound of her legs. ‘I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,’ she remembers telling the team. The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was on the drip. ‘I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!’”

The first installment of the five-part Being Serena airs May 2nd on HBO.




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