It’s no secret that the American health care system needs work. For instance, women in the United States are more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes than women in other “developed” countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But for black women in America, the statistics are much worse. That’s unacceptable, and Serena Williams is not afraid to call the system out. As she recently told the BBC, it’s time for women to “get feisty” and “stand up.”
Williams, who almost died after giving birth to her daughter by emergency C-section last year, said she was really lucky. Because she’s an athlete, she’s very aware of how her body works. So she immediately knew when she felt something was off. She told nurses that she needed a CT scan and blood thinners, and after some frustrating tests that had nothing to do with what she knew was wrong, doctors finally listened to her and discovered that she was indeed developing a pulmonary embolism, blood clots that block the lungs.
“Unfortunately, a lot of African Americans and black people don’t have the same experience that I’ve had,” she said.
That’s true. Williams is a fortunate case. According to the CDC, black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women.
So what’s going on with the American health care system?
If you ask Williams, the issue is racism.
Although more research needs to be done in order to understand the actual causes of these deaths, the CDC does state that half of all pregnancy-related fatalities are preventable.
“I can’t say that’s it not time to get feisty. I think maybe it is,” Williams said. “You have to stand up…have conversations that aren’t comfortable. We deserve to be treated fairly, the same way.”
Prejudice in the American health care system is not fair, not to mention infuriating. Nobody knows your body better than you do. So if you feel like something’s off, despite a health care professional telling you otherwise, don’t be afraid to speak up. It could save your life.