Tori Bowie’s Olympic Teammates Share Their Scary Childbirth Stories After Her Death

Tori Bowie’s Olympic teammates Tianna Madison and Allyson Felix shared their own terrifying pregnancy experiences, with Felix calling out the "maternity mortality crisis" facing Black women.

By Angie Orellana Hernandez Jun 14, 2023 11:09 PMTags
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Tori Bowie's teammates are shedding light on their own life-threatening pregnancy experiences.

Following the Olympic gold medalist's death at eight months pregnant, which an autopsy revealed was from complications of childbirth, her fellow Team USA runners spoke out about the maternal mortality rate among Black women.

"Even though I went into labor at 26 weeks we went to the hospital with my medical advance directive AND my will," Tianna Madison, who shares son 18-month-old Kai with partner Charles "Chuck" Ryan, wrote on Instagram June 13. "Additionally I had a VERY tough conversation with [Ryan] about who to save if it came down to it. I was NOT AT ALL confident that I'd be coming home."

Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factors that contribute to the disparity include variation in quality healthcare, structural racism and implicit bias.

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Madison credited Ryan as one of the reasons she's still alive.

"There are two reasons why I did make it," she continued. "1) knowledge- I was all to aware of@the disparity and communicated this to my partner so we could go in eyes wide open 2) since I was busy dying. Chuck had to advocate for me and he did. Even though we agreed about who his priority would be in an emergency situation he did not take no for an answer from the doctors and as a result saved me AND the baby."

However, she further reflected on how "THREE (3) of the FOUR (4) of us who ran on the SECOND fastest 4x100m relay of all time, the 2016 Olympic Champions have nearly died or died in childbirth," referencing herself, Bowie and Allyson Felix.

Felix—who is mom to daughter Camryn with sprinter Kenneth Ferguson—championed Madison's message in the comments, describing the mortality disparity as "heartbreaking." 

"We continue to face a maternity mortality crisis in this country," Felix wrote. "Black women are at risk. It's why I won't stop doing this work. We can't sit by and continue to watch our loved ones die when many of these complications are preventable. Standing with you T."


Previously, Felix shared that she underwent an emergency C-section after being diagnosed with severe preeclampsia at 32-weeks pregnant. Her daughter spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit before going home. (Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure condition that can affect kidney or liver function, according to the Cleveland Clinic.)

"I really want women to be aware, to know if they're at risk, to have a plan in place, to not be intimidated in doctor's offices, and to be heard," Felix said in a 2021 PSA with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "To know the signs and be persistent about anything that does not feel normal."

In Bowie's case, the runner's pregnancy may have been complicated by possible respiratory distress and eclampsia, which develops from preeclampsia, according to her autopsy obtained by E! News. She was found dead on May 2 in her bed in Florida. Her baby girl, weighing 1.8 pounds and measuring about 16 inches, did not survive, according to an autopsy report.

Bowie's agent Kimberly Holland touched on the tragedy, telling CBS News on June 14, "I can only imagine now how that must have been."

"Painful," Holland continued. "It hurts. Also to know that there's no baby."

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