High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected
Book Review

High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected

When it comes to pregnancy, would you rather live in a state of gestational bliss enjoying the miraculous wonder of the little person growing inside you, or would you prefer a front-row seat to the many medical complications that could — but probably won’t — happen during a pregnancy? In “High Risk,” a new book debuting March 10, Dr. Chavi Eve Karkowsky, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in New York City, shares personal stories from the front lines, offering a window into the “darkest and lightest corners of people’s lives, into the extremes of the human experience.”

Karkowsky points out that for most healthy women, their first experience navigating the American healthcare system is when they deliver a baby. “Even uncomplicated births are dramatic and exciting,” she says. But in pregnancy, changes can happen fast. One moment you’re buying a layette; the next, you’re heading to the Emergency Room in preterm labor. How can women (and their partners) be better prepared?

A self-described adrenaline junkie, Karkowsky shares a range of stories (some from her own experiences as a mother), which race at a heart-pounding speed through the trimesters to birth, to postpartum, and beyond. “I’ve ruined many dinner parties with my stories about Cesareans, placentas, and epidurals,” Karkowsky says. The stories aren’t meant to instill fear, but rather provide a healthy dose of reality, as well as equip patients — and their healthcare providers — with substantive knowledge to make tough decisions if and when situations arise. For example, what should women know about the risks of vaginal delivery after a prior Cesarean? What is informed consent and when might you need it? What should you consider about genetic testing? How can medical language empower, or disempower women?

With beautiful prose and utmost sensitivity, Karkowsky guides her readers through extremes of joy and sadness. In the final chapter, she shares a typical night on-call on the labor and delivery floor. If you want to gain a greater appreciation for the work that obstetricians do on a daily (and nightly) basis, this is it! “These patients were and are my sacred responsibility, and I want to make sure I did right by them; that I made choices and helped them make choices that set them on the right path,” Karkowsky writes. Given the variety of pregnancy-related issues that this book unpacks, when it comes to having healthy babies, ignorance is definitely not bliss.

Dr. Karkowsky will present her book at a launch party on March 11 in Washington Heights (details below) and will share a story on the theme of “Do or Die” at the House of Speakeasy, April 21, 6 p.m., 425 Lafayette St., New York City. For more information, visit chavikar.com.

Who: Chavie Eve Karkowsky, M.D.

What: Book Launch Party for “High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected”

When: March 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: Word Up Community Bookshop. 2113 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY

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