‘Serena was only a little bit pregnant. It happens’

Gail Emms is perplexed at the fuss about Serena Williams being eight weeks’ pregnant when she won the Australian Open. Shock, horror. I played badminton at the same stage, she says, before reeling off a list of other athletes who competed well into their pregnancy

Serena Williams is pregnant. Congratulations, Serena! You will now enter a very challenging, yet very rewarding stage of your life and I wish you all the best with your pregnancy and beyond.

Now, to all the journalists who are making the headline: ‘Serena was eight weeks’ pregnant when she won the Australian Open!’ Oh please, really??!! EIGHT WEEKS! NOT EIGHT MONTHS!! At eight weeks, she may not even have known she was pregnant. The body doesn’t really show at that stage and the foetus is the size of a raspberry. Wow. How did she do it??

I remember being eight weeks’ pregnant. No one knew, no one guessed, my stomach was the same, I felt OK, apart from a bit of morning sickness, but actually felt really excited, really energised and looking forward to the biggest journey of my life. I carried on exactly the same as always: I exercised, went swimming, played sport – I DID THE SAME THING! This is not breaking news and I’m embarrassed at all the people making a big thing of it.

Now the media is awash with ‘Are you active in your pregnancy?’ stories and dragging anyone who dared to play sport while up the duff to give their version of events and opinion on one of the greatest tennis players of all time. This is Serena Williams we are talking about. She is an awesome, strong and powerful athlete … Is being eight weeks’ pregnant really going to make a difference? Not in the slightest.

In badminton, being pregnant and competing is nothing new. My mum proudly shows off her name on the Bedford & County Badminton Club roll of honour that shows, in August 1980, she won the mixed doubles. She was seven months’ pregnant with my sister. Ella Tripp competed for England in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 when 22 weeks’ pregnant. Joanne Davies was 11 weeks’ pregnant competing for Team GB in Sydney 2000, and Joanne Goode won a national mixed doubles title at five months’ pregnant.

There are many women who are rolling their eyes in despair at this story. Instead of saying ‘Congratulations, Serena!’ and moving on, suddenly it becomes a ‘women’s issue’. I get the impression that journalists are thankful that she is now seen as a woman, more feminine because she is pregnant, rather than this gladiator who is breaking records and stands up to the sexist world of sport.

So, get over the fact that Serena dared to play a sport that she is extremely good at while a little bit pregnant. It happens a lot in life. Wish her the best and then prepare to welcome her back … if she decides to do so.


Gail Emms MBE is one of Britain’s most successful badminton players, best remembered for her silver medal in the mixed doubles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. With partner Nathan Robertson, she won gold at the World Championships in 2006, the Commonwealth Games in the same year, and the European Championships in 2004. Gail was six times national mixed doubles champion and national ladies doubles champion five times. Since retiring after the Beijing Olympic Games, Gail has been a versatile sports presenter on a variety of television and radio programmes. She was awarded the MBE for services to badminton in 2009. She is the mother of two boys. Gail’s latest articles

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2 thoughts on “‘Serena was only a little bit pregnant. It happens’

  • 21st April 2017 at 12:26 pm

    As a child free woman I was bemused at the big deal being made of Serena Williams in respect of her being pregnant at the Australian Open. ( My first thought was that this will make it more difficult for her to overtake Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record.) Surely this has happened at major sporting events before.
    Thanks therefore for Gail Emms’ article and setting the record straight. General observation would indicate that many women do strangely enough manage to continue with their jobs during various stages of pregnancy!

  • 2nd August 2017 at 12:10 pm

    I agree. Some women get terrible morning sickness but many do not. I ran my first marathon at about 17 weeks pregnant and I’m not a professional athlete. I didn’t know I was pregnant at the 8 week stage.


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