Tennis superstar’s traumatic post-delivery more common than you think

CLEVELAND, Ohio – She is gracing the cover of Vogue Magazine’s February issue with her 4-month-old baby girl Alexis.

But for tennis star Serena Williams, motherhood got off to rocky start.

In the article, Williams details the complications she faced after giving birth in September.

She had to have an emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped during contractions.

And while the surgery went smoothly, the six days after proved to be a nightmare. Shortness of breath was caused by blood clots in the lungs, also known as pulmonary embolism.

Doctor Melissa March, who specializes in high risk births at University Hospitals says, "Women who have surgery have a higher risk for a blood clot postpartum, but really any women after vaginal delivery or a c-section has a risk for a blood clot in their leg and sometimes it can move to their lungs."

Dr. March says Williams has a history of blood clots, which can be precursor to having them post birth.

In fact, she says a woman’s risk of blood clots is four to five times higher when she’s pregnant.

Mother of 4, Brittney Luccio of Lorain, ended up in the ICU after giving birth to her son Dakotah in 2008.

Complications from preeclampsia led to a C-section. She says the condition nearly killed her.

"I was just real swollen and retaining water and I was more tired,” said Luccio.

Those are just some of the warning signs.

Risk factors include increased estrogen and obesity.

Dr. March adds, "It is the 7th leading cause of maternal death in this country, and since we have a fairly high maternal mortality rate, it’s one of the things we look at to try to decrease."

In a Facebook post, Williams, who is 36, says she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from women who experienced the same thing.

The 23-time grand slam winner is now hoping her story will push others to talk more openly about the dangers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women are over three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes.

The reason why remains a mystery.