Allyson Felix Speaks On Dangers Of Pregnancy For Black Women

Olympic Medalist Allyson Felix Gives Another Reality Check On The Dangers Of Black Women Giving Birth In America

An Olympic Gold medalist continues to be candid about Black maternal health in America.

Allyson Felix spoke with NBC Meet The Press’ Kristen Welker about her experiences as a pregnant athlete and some of the dangers surrounding being Black and pregnant. The retired Olympian went back to a time when she had to have an emergency c-section to give birth to her son in November 2018 after being diagnosed with preeclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy condition.

During that time, Felix’s feet were swelling, and she had no idea that was a sign of the symptom. She says she wished her doctors would have told her. “As a woman of color–that I’m already at a greater risk for these complications.”

“What are the signs? What can I do to help this not happen? And also, I should be taking my blood pressure at a certain point. So just being educated and being aware is huge.”

A 2021 report from the CDC found that Black women’s mortality rate is almost three times higher than that of white women. Over 80% of deaths related to pregnancy were preventable, according to data from 2017 through 2019. According to March of Dimes, preeclampsia can happen after week 20 of pregnancy or right after giving birth. On top of having high blood pressure, it can cause major organs, including the liver and kidneys, not to work properly. Felix says she always felt her health care was pristine, but that’s not always good enough.

“I felt like I had great medical care, but that’s not always enough,” she said. “Because I had severe features of preeclampsia, they were in constant worry of me having a stroke, of my vision being lost.”

The athlete’s health experiences led her to advocate for Black maternal health. Four years ago, the sprinter testified at a House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee hearing to advocate for the racial disparities and social determinants on the topic. She described her pregnancy as “a really isolating and lonely time” as she had to “hide” her pregnancy from Nike, her primary sponsor, after being fearful of contractual consequences.

Felix’s advocacy was dialed up a notch when her former teammate, Tori Bowie, passed away in May 2023 from pregnancy complications, according to Newsone. Bowie was almost eight months pregnant with a developed fetus when she was found dead. Speculations started to circulate that she died from a condition called eclampsia, which can be fatal if left untreated.

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