Here’s the science behind the 10 categories of Adverse Babyhood Experiences (ABEs) that shape health and affect risk for chronic illness.
These adverse babyhood experiences resources offer the science and highlight opportunities to prevent, repair and heal chronic health conditions.
These ABE resources are for adults with chronic illness, parents who are planning a pregnancy or looking to understand and work with symptoms such as postpartum depression, as well as health professionals working with families during pregnancy, or with children and adults with chronic illness
* I’ve created a new post for 10 Other Resources for the ABEs fact sheets, blog posts, eCourses and more.
What are ABEs?
ABEs are a new construct I have developed to highlight the types of events that shape health from our earliest days. This includes events that occurred before conception, during pregnancy, at birth and in the first 2 years of life (see the detailed guide here. Included are my journal article introducing ABEs and summarizing the science as well as some of the most important articles that substantiate this new lens and the hope it offers.
ABEs are also a tool to improve medical care and decrease risk for infant and maternal morbidity and mortality, and chronic illness.
The benefit of understanding different types of trauma that shape health is that it offers us a new way of making sense of symptoms and a new set of tools to heal trauma and stabilize, improve or potentially reduce symptoms of chronic illness.
Includes the list of 10 ABEs, my published journal article on ABEs (2020) and free journal articles on the science that support the concept of ABEs.
Use these adverse babyhood experiences resources to inform doctors and other health care professionals, employers, friends and family; to support your hospital or department to make changes; to validate your own understanding so you can find new tools for healing based on the emerging new paradigm of disease and the role of early risk factors.
List of 10 ABEs
Get the detailed list of ABEs in my guide and in the downloadable free fact sheet and ebook below. The first 5 ABEs are evens that primarily affect mothers and also affect fathers, while ABEs 6 – 10 affect babies. ABE #10 affects mothers, fathers and babies.
- Maternal loss or trauma
- Low support or loss of support for the mother
- Maternal physical stress, symptoms or illness
- Maternal serious emotional stress or illness
- Complications for mothers
- Complications for babies
- Separation (emotional or physical)
- Birth weight
- Baby did not or could not breastfeed
- Symptoms in parents and babies indicate exposure to ABEs and opportunities for repair
- Other ABEs, including similar stressors for fathers and more
1. My ABEs Journal Article (2020)
My journal article published July 2020 introduces the construct of ABEs in an academic style. This is a good resource to give to your family doctor, OB/GYN, midwife, pediatrician, hospital department and others.
Thank you to the Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (JOPPPAH) for permission to make my article available here for a free download.
The citation for my article is:
Mead, V. P. (2020). “Adverse babyhood experiences (ABEs) increase risk for infant and maternal morbidity and mortality, and chronic illness.” Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 34(4).
2. 100 References
This is my list of 100 references I’ve created with evidence for ABEs, risk for chronic illness, mechanisms and support for tools that heal, reverse, prevent ABEs. Includes live links to articles.
Other Free Journal Articles
The following adverse babyhood experiences resources include published studies and large bodies of evidence that describe how ABEs shape health. These can also be given to your health professionals. The articles are free online and I’ve made them more accessible for download here.
3. A Definition of Trauma (Scaer)
Neurologist and traumatologist Dr. Robert Scaer defines trauma as
“any negative event that occurs in a state of relative helplessness —a car accident, the sudden death of a loved one, a frightening medical procedure, a significant experience of rejection—can produce the same neurophysiological changes in the brain as do combat, rape, or abuse.
What makes a negative life event traumatizing isn’t the life-threatening nature of the event, but rather the degree of helplessness it engenders and one’s history of prior trauma (see also his book The Trauma Spectrum).
What constitutes trauma is different for everyone, even as certain experiences are more likely to be traumatic for everyone.
Once we start to get a sense of what trauma is and what it might look like – circumcision, induction of labor, toxemia, incubator care, a cesarean – we begin to understand:
- how to recognize who has experienced an event as indeed traumatizing
- what we can do to prevent additional trauma
- how to support healing and repair
- and how to reduce risk
4. Fetal Programming (Barker, Calkins)
On the role of prenatal emotional and physical stress as a risk factor for low birth weight, chronic illness, and other symptoms later in life.
Calkins K, Devaskar SU. Fetal origins of adult disease. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care 2011;41(6):158-76. doi: 10.1016/j.cppeds.2011.01.001
5. Epigenetics and Early Risk for Disease (Shonkoff)
One of the most powerful articles to give to a medical doctor. Pediatrician Dr. Jack Shonkoff of Harvard and Dr. Andrew Garner of Case Western write about the new paradigm of disease and the new policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizing the lifelong effects of adversity (2012).
Shonkoff JP, Garner AS, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of C, et al. The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics 2012;129(1):e232-46. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2663
Discover magazine article on the discovery that maternal behavior influences gene function in rat pups. Studies are finding similar epigenetic changes in humans too.
6. Maternal Behavior Alters Epigenetics in Babies (Meaney, Szyf, Moore, Wright)
7. The Cell Danger Response (CDR) – (Naviaux)
Naviaux RK. Metabolic features of the cell danger response. Mitochondrion 2014;16:7-17. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2013.08.006
8. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – (Felitti & Dube)
Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, et al. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study [see comments]. Am J Prev Med 1998;14(4):245-58.
See my blog post about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and chronic illness. You can take the questionnaire to calculate your ACE score.
Read Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris’ book The Deepest Well.
ABEs: Treatment, Prevention and Repair
9. Healing Bonding & Asthma (Madrid)
Madrid A, Skolek S, Shapiro F. Repairing failures in bonding through EMDR. Clinical Case Series 2006;5(4):271-86.
Learn more on Dr. Madrid’s website (his maternal infant bonding survey and more).
Dr. Tony Madrid’s book, introduction to chapter 4:
“I love him but I don’t like being around him.” This is a common cry of a mother who has not bonded with her child. She has a lack of warm feelings about her child. She simply does not like him. She may feel guilty: she knows that something is terribly wrong. She still takes care of the child despite lacking the wonderful rewards of bonding. She may be overprotective as a deliberate method of protection; she may be angry at him much of the time; she may get depressed because of it. She gives of herself without any joy. Without knowing it, she actually is a saint (p. 31).
The above quote is an excerpt from his book The Mother and Child Reunion: Repairing the Broken Bond (also available for free from his website), and offers insights and tools for recognizing and healing bonding disruptions.
10. Parent-Infant Bonding (Klaus & Kennell)
Klaus and Kennell developed the concept of bonding. See their books, still relevant today, and a more recent article 1998).
Klaus MH, Kennell JH. Parent-Infant Bonding. 2nd ed: Mosby 1982 and 1995
11. Prenatal Bonding: Schroth (Germany) & Ikegawa (Japan)
Gerhard Schroth, MD (Psychiatrist, body psychotherapist, systemic therapist in Germany) Facilitating prenatal bonding reduces complications, premature birth, postpartum depression, and more. A detailed article and case study are available through the APPPAH journal (2010, volume 25 issue 1, pages 3-16).
Akira Ikegawa, MD (Obstetrician in Japan) has found that support for prenatal and postpartum bonding decreases complications, postpartum depression and more. As a result of studies in prenatal memory showing that babies are aware he has also learned how to minimize interventions. Learn about his project called Unite the World and download free PDFs of his work. This includes Dr. Ikegawa’s free 100 page ebook about the process of supporting bonding, which you can download below.
12. Labor Support (Doulas)
See the Cochrane review of continuous support and a January 2020 article of increasing use of doulas in some states, where their presence is also reimbursed (Minnesota and Oregon), where they are piloting more doulas (New York) or where doulas are recommended even if cost is not covered (Washington and Oklahoma).
13. Trauma Informed Prenatal Care (Joseph, JJ Way)
Learn more about midwife Jennie Joseph’s practice and approach to care, which includes access for all. See her 2018 report showing large decreases in preterm birth and low birth weight, including in women who are especially at risk. Learn more about her initiatives and Perinatal Task Force, which you can join for free (see item #30). Her work has been featured in the New York Times (Feb 2018) and CBS Sunday Morning (August 2018). She offers an online course through Gold Learning.
14. Trauma Therapy Reverses Epigenetic Changes (Yehuda)
Epigenetic changes associated with PTSD have been found to be reversible in combat veterans who recover from PTSD through trauma therapy.
Yehuda R, Daskalakis NP, Desarnaud F, et al. Epigenetic Biomarkers as Predictors and Correlates of Symptom Improvement Following Psychotherapy in Combat Veterans with PTSD. Front Psychiatry 2013;4:118. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00118
More Adverse Babyhood Experiences Resources
Therapies for working with effects of pre and perinatal trauma (adults and children) includes links to find practitioners (includes different somatically based trauma therapies for multigenerational trauma)
APPPAH: the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH)
- See their practitioner database (look under “Resources“)
- My blog post on 2019 conference highlights and speakers
- Trainings & education at APPPAH
See related blog posts:
- Highlights from APPPAH 2019 Conference
- The Comprehensive Guide to ABEs detailed blog post
- The short summary of ABEs
- ABEs and asthma
- ABEs and type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases
- ABEs and rheumatoid arthritis
Follow news in trauma and maternal care at the ACEs Connection News Site: ACEs in Maternal Health (ACEs are Adverse Childhood Experiences)