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Childhood Abuse Linked To Risk Of Endometriosis

woman in pain

If you follow health news, you've undoubtedly seen the term "endometriosis" more and more frequently these days. This disorder occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus instead grows outside, sometimes causing pelvic pain and in some cases, infertility, according to Healthline. More awareness for endometriosis means that so many women who have suffered from symptoms for years now have a diagnosis and a treatment plan in place, which is amazing. A new study is now shedding light on a link to endometriosis, stating that abuse during childhood could be the cause.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development among other organizations, is the largest of its kind, which looked at more than 60,000 women appears to show a link between early life abuse and endometriosis.

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The researchers found that after examining the 60,595 premenopausal women with endometriosis who responded to the survey, 31 percent reported they’d experienced some form of physical abuse as children. In addition, 12 percent reported being sexually violated, while 21 percent disclosed both types of abuse.

woman in pain
Credit: iStock / ChesiireCat

Holly Harris, ScD, an ovarian cancer and endometriosis researcher at the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, shared that this body of evidence further strengthens the fact that childhood trauma and stress can impact long-term health outcomes.

Taking things one step further, Harris concluded that “We saw stronger associations among women whose endometriosis was most likely diagnosed as a result of pain symptoms,” Harris said. “We know that abuse is associated with chronic pelvic pain. Potentially there’s a stress response to the trauma that activates these systems and causes you to be more sensitive to pain.” Furthermore, the differences between women who saw this type of trauma in their childhood and those who did not were not large.

Confirmed in surgery, these researchers found that out of women who experience childhood abuse, a staggering 79 percent increased the risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis. Harris shared that this risk was calculated through comparisons of various abuse categories versus a reference group. She was pointed out that just because a woman is diagnosed with endometriosis, that does not mean that she definitely suffered abuse during her childhood.

If you are curious, endometriosis generally appears in 1 out of 10 women, and while there is more research needed to be done, this is a very groundbreaking starting point for medical professionals.

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