I love the American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference. I’m spending this week like a kid in a candy store– listening to great presentations and interviewing the top experts in the world to be possible guests on next year’s Creating a Family show. Many presentations yesterday were great, but the information on the long term health impact of childhood abuse really caught my eye… and my heart.
Two studies presented found a link between childhood physical or sexual abuse and reproductive disorders later in life. The first study of over 70,000 women followed for 20 years found that woman who reported sexual or physical abuse in childhood had a 13% greater risk of developing endometriosis. The second study of 131 women found that women who experience sexual abuse were 50% more likely to suffer accelerated ovarian follicle loss at midlife.
The lead researcher of the endometriosis study, Dr. Stacey Missmer, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, said that these studies are part of the growing evidence that stress and trauma affects the hormonal and central nervous center and can result in long term chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, fibroids, diabetes, and reproductive disorders.
When asked, researchers stressed that these studies do not mean that the majority of women with endometriosis or ovarian failure were abused or that the majority of abused children will develop reproductive disorders later in life. They do, however, provide evidence that extreme stress affects the whole body including reproductive health, and that that childhood and adolescence is a particularly vulnerable window for disease development.