Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) correlated to high blood pressure during pregnancy?

High blood pressure. In your third trimester of pregnancy you do not want to hear these three words, especially if you are planning to have a home birth. My blood pressure nearly caused me to have an induction for my first birth and transfer to a hospital birth for my second birth. I wish I had known of the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test.

My Beliefs of the World

For my first birth I was clueless. I did not understand why this was happening to me because I ate a healthy diet, went to boxing class three times a week amongst classes three other days and I loved being active outdoors. I was also relatively stress-free. Everything my obstetrician told me to do I was already doing and had been in practice for a long time.


The key factor I did not understand yet was that my childhood was very stressful. I had not accepted that my mom’s alcoholism affected me at this point. However, my body held the pattern that I was unsafe in the world and that I had to be hyper vigilant. I had also adopted the belief that I wasn’t good enough and did not feel worthy enough to be a mother. Thankfully,  my birth was able to go as planned and I went into labor on my own. Had I not been taking care of myself the way I was, I’m sure my outcome would have been different.

It wasn’t until my mom passed away from cirrhosis halfway through my second pregnancy that I understood how much healing I needed to do. I started going to Al-Anon and finally felt a sense of belonging. My biggest takeaway was that this healing will take years and perhaps a lifetime. Of course, a few months in Al-Anon could not cure me from my high blood pressure problem.

A few weeks away from my due date, my blood pressure spiked again.  My midwife suggested a few raw cloves of garlic a day and taking a few supplements. Once again, I went into labor on my own. This time my water broke first and there was meconium, baby’s first poop that may be signaling signs of distress. I was monitored for blood pressure spikes and heart rate deceleration of my baby. Once again, I think I narrowly escaped a difficult decision because of high blood pressure.

New Understanding

While it is always difficult to say definitively, I truly believe that my high blood pressure was rooted in my ACEs score. The end of pregnancy may have signaled that something was threatening to my existence. Many of the limiting beliefs I held about myself and motherhood were surely factors. My body was also storing many traumas that I would uncover during my postpartum journey. The more that women and women’s health practitioners have knowledge of ACEs, the more modalities for prevention of high blood pressure can be prescribed during pregnancy. Our society will be filled with more peaceful birth stories for both mom and baby. Perhaps there would be a decrease in postpartum depression too.

About Kelsey Budge

Hello, I'm Kelsey Budge, The Movement Doula. I support families that want to change their childbearing journey their second time around, with an emphasis on movement, mindset and recovery. I believe you can fully enjoy this journey when you can focus on what matters most.

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