Adverse childhood experiences and poor birth outcomes in a diverse, low-income sample

Mersky, J. P., & Plummer Lee, C. (2019). Adverse childhood experiences and poor birth outcomes in a diverse, low-income sample. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 19(387), 1-7.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are associated with an array of health consequences in later life, but few studies have examined the effects of ACEs on women’s birth outcomes.

We analyzed data gathered from a sample of 1848 low-income women who received services from home visiting programs in Wisconsin. Archival program records from a public health database were used to create three birth outcomes reflecting each participant’s reproductive health history: any pregnancy loss; any preterm birth; any low birthweight. Multivariate logistic regressions were performed to test the linear and non-linear effects of ACEs on birth outcomes, controlling for age, race/ethnicity, and education.

Descriptive analyses showed that 84.4% of women had at least one ACE, and that 68.2% reported multiple ACEs. Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that cumulative ACE scores were associated with an increased likelihood of pregnancy loss (OR = 1.12; 95% CI = 1.08–1.17), preterm birth (OR = 1.07; 95% CI = 1.01–1.12), and low birthweight (OR = 1.08; 95% CI = 1.03–1.15). Additional analyses revealed that the ACE-birthweight association deviated from a linear, dose-response pattern.

Findings confirmed that high levels of childhood adversity are associated with poor birth outcomes. Alongside additive risk models, future ACE research should test interactive risk models and causal mechanisms through which childhood adversity compromises reproductive health.

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