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Serena Williams’ traumatic birth experience isn’t rare for black women—and that needs to change

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She is arguably one of the best tennis players of all time. She is widely popular, even among non-sports fans and is married to the multi-millionaire co-founder of Reddit. Yet, after the birth of her first child, Serena Williams tells Vogue she had to convince health care professionals to take her seriously when she noticed signs of a pulmonary embolism.


As recounted in Vogue:

“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!’”

That this could happen to Williams paints a bleak picture of maternity care in the United States, where more women die of pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country. The statistics are even worse for black women, who die at three to four times the rate of white women from childbirth, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s even more heartbreaking is that two leading causes of maternal death—preeclampsia and hemorrhage—are preventable. So what is going on?

The challenge facing African-American mothers is a complex one, with a deadly interplay of genetic and sociocultural factors at work. Black women are more susceptible to chronic illnesses such as anemia, obesity, hypertension and diabetes, which can complicate an otherwise normal pregnancy.

For the estimated 45% of women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, there is often a delay in managing pre-existing conditions such as these—and that’s if they have access to prenatal care at all, given that black women are less likely to be insured than white women.

Once African-American women make it into care facilities, their concerns are often dismissed by professionals, just as Williams experienced.

“We know there are instances where [African-American mothers] are not given the proper level of attention and care because of assumptions that doctors and hospitals are making about them,” Shawn Theirry, a Texas House of Representatives member who recently introduced legislation that would investigate this discrepancy, tells the Los Angeles Times.

When a “violent reaction” to an epidural threatened her own life during childbirth, Thierry says it was only because of her “excellent insurance” that she got the care she needed.

But, for many more, that is not the case—as a recent investigation from ProPublica and NPR reveals. As the report recounts:

“In the more than 200 stories of African-American mothers that ProPublica and NPR have collected over the past year, the feeling of being devalued and disrespected by medical providers was a constant theme. The young Florida mother-to-be whose breathing problems were blamed on obesity when in fact her lungs were filling with fluid and her heart was failing. The Arizona mother whose anesthesiologist assumed she smoked marijuana because of the way she did her hair. The Chicago-area businesswoman with a high-risk pregnancy who was so upset at her doctor’s attitude that she changed OB-GYNs in her seventh month, only to suffer a fatal postpartum stroke.”

Another threat of implicit bias is that physicians often fail to appreciate the complexities within the label of “black” that is assigned to persons of color—which can blind them to diagnoses they don’t believe are common for black people.

That was the case for Shalon Irving, a lieutenant commander of the US Public Health Corps and an epidemiologist at the CDC, who died three weeks after her daughter’s birth from a blood clot disorder most common among those of European descent.

As a dark-skinned woman, she had never been tested for the illness—even though multiple members of her family had died from symptoms that clearly implicated it. The illness, apparently, didn’t know that they were black. Nor did it realize that Irving was educated, middle class and insured.

There’s a final major factor at play here, and it’s the United States’ attitude towards pregnancy itself.

This country often focuses on fetal and infant care to the detriment of the mother. Pregnancy is treated as pathology, with C-sections, epidurals, inductions and other interventions at an all-time high.

Compare that to the United Kingdom, where every maternal death is painstakingly evaluated to hold caretakers culpable and promote the sharing of data that could prevent future tragedies. In the United States, this maternal mortality review process is left to the discretion of states—of which 24 have procedures in place, according to a 2017 report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Without these processes, there is no way to learn from mistakes. And the price we pay for that is women’s lives.

More must be done by our government and caregivers to empower the medical community to listen and look carefully at its patients as people—not statistics, presumptions or stereotypes.

Williams helped drive that conversation when she was so open about her experience, which has already led to an outpouring from women with similar stories. In a Facebook post this week, Williams said she is humbled, grateful and optimistic because of these responses.

“I want to thank all of you who have opened up through online comments and other platforms to tell your story,” she says. “I encourage you to continue to tell those stories. This helps. We can help others. Our voices are our power.”

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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Can pregnancy be contagious among friends? Science says yes, and so do some staff at a hospital in Maine where nine nurses from the Labor & Delivery Unit were all expecting at the same time, and now they are all mamas.

About 5 months ago, after one of the nurses posted a photo of 8 of the 9 mamas-to-be the sweet pic quickly went viral.

Soon local news stations picked up the story of the baby boom on the L&D unit at Maine Medical Center.



"It's really nice coming to work and seeing other people who are just as pregnant and watching their bellies pop and just talking about these experiences that we are going through together," one of the nurses, Amanda Spear, told WMTW.

"I feel like every other day we would come into work and it would be like, 'someone else is pregnant,'" Spear told NBC.

Another of the nurses, Erin Grenier, said that with every pregnancy announcement the staff got more and more excited for each other.

Nurse Brittney Verville couldn't believe the photo she posted to Facebook before resting up for the night shift got thousands of likes and shares. "When we woke up we're like, 'oh my gosh I think we're viral,'" she told NBC.

Now, the mamas are going viral again, as a picture of the babies is blowing up, even making it to CNN.

The youngest is 3 weeks old and the oldest is 3½ months. The mamas are already getting them together for playdates. The photographer who snapped the viral pic, Carly Murray, told CNN she hopes one say these kiddos understand how important the work their mamas do is.

Congrats to the nurse of the Maine Medical Center Labor and Delivery Unit! 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published March 26, 2019. It has been updated.]

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