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Book Look - High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected by Chavi Eve Karkowsky

by Erin Moore on 2023-08-22T04:00:00-07:00 in Education, Women's health | 0 Comments

For today's blog post, we're trying something different: a book look. What is that?! Well, one of our librarians will share their thoughts on a book they found to be impactful. I'll preface this blog post with a caveat: how is a book spotlight considered a novelty on a hospital library blog?  I mean, don't librarians just "read all day?" Isn't that what we're paid to do? (Short answer: no). Sure, we scan biomedical abstracts on the daily and we analyze information from many sources to manage and provide clinical information services to our systemwide stakeholders. But we're not hunkered down in an idyllic location with a book in one hand, a cup of  tea in the other, and a cat in our lap. Well, maybe the cat-lap thing, yes. But any leisure reading that we do occurs outside of usual working hours. As satisfying and educational as it is to learn about various and sundry biomedical topics throughout the workday, it doesn't exactly constitute reading for pleasure. 

That's why this blog post is particularly special. I caught up with one of our awesome librarians, Janene Wandersee, who agreed to share her experience and some takeaways.  I hope you enjoy reading Janene's insights as much as I did and will be compelled to expand your reading list. 

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I'm an avid reader, especially of fiction, enjoying how I can learn about the world while being immersed in stories.  I've recently read novels about foster parenting, foreign politics, book conservation, religious intolerance, racism, and time travel.   However, one non-fiction book that stands out is High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected by Chavi Eve Karkowsky, a maternal-fetal medicine physician.

By reading this book, I was able to put the scattered facts I've learned about conditions affecting women during pregnancy into a more coherent picture.  I expect that clinicians reading the book could see it as a celebration of the work they do each day to help patients, as well as a meditation on a few of the challenges of the job.  The narrative follows the stages of pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.  Although some readers have complained about too much medical jargon, I found it clearly written and liked the mix of brief disease descriptions, case examples, and reflections—I read the book in a day.

Even more than getting the bigger picture on complications in pregnancy, I liked how Karkowsky sometimes shared her thought processes.  For example, how is watchful waiting determined versus intervention?  What is it like to see an abnormality one has never seen before on an ultrasound and have to project calm while diagnosing?  How might the medical system and rules set up by medical practices contribute to negative outcomes?

One of the most thoughtful chapters was about periviable birth.  I appreciated that Karkowsky honors grief and loss throughout the narrative and acknowledges the pain of difficult decisions.  She also mentions how devastating it can be for clinicians if a mother dies.  This is a rare occurrence, yet it happens at a higher rate in the United States than in other Western countries and at a higher rate for women of color.  She urges providers to examine implicit bias and seek solutions.

I’m left considering the wonder of birth and what an honor it is for anyone to get to play a role in it.  I think of Banner's own wonderful maternal-fetal and neonatal staff and all you do to support moms and babies.  Here's a special shout out to Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix, Banner Fort Collins Medical Center, and Banner McKee Medical Center for being named top maternity hospitals by Newsweek in 2023.

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So where can you track down a copy of this book and stat?  Check out your local public library to start! Also, public libraries provide access to ebooks or audio books for your device in the event that you are not interested in a print book. If you have a university affiliation, you may also have borrowing privileges there. Public library cards are free, so get signed up if you haven't already, and let the reading begin!


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