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Serena Williams gave me the best advice for giving birth

Dana Oliver
Beauty Director
Serena Williams has the best advice for pregnant women on how to prepare emotionally for giving birth. (Photo: Andrew H. Walker/REX/Shutterstock)

Now that I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, unsolicited advice is coming at me from every angle. Whether it’s why my partner and I shouldn’t wait until the last minute to choose a name for our child, or how purchasing the Snoo Smart Sleeper is a waste of money (FYI: too late, I already treated myself to this remarkable bassinet, which is billed as helping me and baby to get a good night’s rest), most of the parenting feedback goes in one ear and right out the other. However, when Serena Williams offered me guidance on giving birth, I happily took notes from her pregnancy playbook.

My “birth plan” includes keeping my support team small (dad and doula), managing labor with natural techniques, along with a Beyoncé and Cardi B playlist and, of course, opting for a vaginal delivery. But after chatting with Williams (a board member of Yahoo Lifestyle’s parent company, Oath), I’m considering scraping it down to the very basic principle of just going with the flow.

“I know you didn’t directly ask me this, but I would just say to you: Don’t have any expectations,” Williams said. “When I was told I had to have a C-section, I didn’t hesitate. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ And I went into that operation room, and a lot of women feel like they’ve failed. I felt that instantly.”

Pause. Full stop. I would never utter the word “failed” in the same breath as discussing the Serena Williams. She is a champion on and off the court, and her humility makes her even more of a winner in my eyes.


The tennis legend has openly discussed the life-threatening complications she experienced after giving birth to her adorable daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., last September. She even allowed cameras to chronicle this emotionally charged chapter of her life for an HBO docuseries entitled Being Serena, bringing public focus to a discussion of maternal death and injury among black women.

Things took a terrifying turn when Williams developed blood clots in her lungs after her emergency cesarean section, and then had to have another surgical procedure to prevent additional blood clots from forming. Yet, she managed to coach herself into believing that everything would be “all right.”

“I was like, ‘I’m going to have a baby’ and I have this amazing kid,” said Williams. “You never know what’s going to happen. Emotionally, if women go in thinking like that, then they’ll have better results.”


When educating me about C-section scars, Williams said, “Oh, gosh! My body and your body, it goes through amazing changes during pregnancy and it continues to change … even though I’m playing. If you get a cut anywhere, especially with a C-section, scar tissue starts to form, and it can be painful. And when you move around, the cut wants to pull apart, and because of that movement and tension, the stress wants to create a scar.”

As a spokesperson for Embrace Scar Therapy, Williams has access to the brand’s best products and she praises the Active Scar Defense (medical-grade silicone sheets) for “reliving those symptoms at the incision.”

Thanks, Serena! I’ll be adding that treatment to my hospital bag … just in case.

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