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After giving birth, Serena Williams faced life-threatening medical problems

For six weeks, the four-time Olympic gold medalist could not get out of bed.
/ Source: TODAY

Though Serena Williams had an emergency cesarean section to deliver her daughter — Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.— the real complications came in the moments after birth, the tennis superstar reveals in the cover story of the latest Vogue.

In the operating room on Sept. 1, the newborn lay on Williams’ chest. Her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, was by her side.

“That was an amazing feeling,” Williams told Vogue. “And then everything went bad.”

It started when she suddenly felt short of breath. Soon it would turn into a dangerous medical complication.

Williams has a history of blood clots, normally kept in check by daily treatment. But because of her C-section, she wasn't taking her medication. She suspected the shortness of breath was the first sign of pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening condition where a blood clot travels to the lungs.

After convincing the nurse and then the doctor to take the necessary CT scan, her fears were confirmed.

Because of the pulmonary embolism, she had terrible coughing fits which caused her C-section incision to open. When she returned to the operating room, doctors discovered a hematoma — a swelling of clotted blood — in her abdomen. A filter had to be inserted into a major vein, she told the magazine.

While the medical problems put the athlete’s body under enormous stress — the four-time Olympic gold medalist could not get out of bed for six weeks — she couldn't be happier being a new mother.

“Now that I’m 36 and I look at my baby,” she told Vogue, “I remember that this was also one of my goals when I was little, before tennis took over […]”

Her next two big goals

The athlete will not be competing in this year's Australian Open, which takes place this month. While she cited a need to focus professionally before stepping back onto the court, the time off has probably also meant great bonding time with Alexis Olympia.

Moving forward, Williams has two big goals for herself: Get 25 Grand Slams to edge out the 24 held by the Australian tennis legend Margaret Court; and to spend as much time with her daughter as humanly possible.