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New Research Establishes a Link between Endo and Childhood Abuse

For a few years now, as a journalist and chronic pain patient, I have been heavily researching possible contributing factors to my range of disorders and slowly connecting the dots.

The ACE study

As a result of this, I first stumbled upon the 1998 “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” (ACE) study back in 2015, as I was penning a collection of personal essays about my youth, and investigating peer review studies. I grew up the daughter of a drug addict and for much of my life was the main target of her abusive behavior, which included name-calling, smacking, spitting, stealing my possessions (to sell for drugs), and manipulation. Even before my mother became addicted to drugs, my stepfather had been physically abusive, smacking and spanking me for the slightest infractions. I also grew up well under the poverty line, having been raised on welfare, in a neighborhood prone to robberies and shootings.

Specifically, the ACE study surveyed 17,000 middle-income adults who had health data stretching back to their early childhoods. The research revealed a higher likelihood of those suffering from chronic illness as adults the more “adversities” those individuals experienced as children.1 These adversities include both mental and physical abuse, parental addiction and/or incarceration, parental divorce, living in poverty, and neighborhood violence.

Other research

Subsequent studies on childhood trauma have further found that the pain and illness these people face as adults are not “psychosomatic”, but due to very real biological changes that occur in the body during these crucial stages of development as a result of what is known as persistent exposure to “toxic stress”.2

But even though the ACE study proved a link between chronic pain and illness and childhood adversity, it did not specify a connection between it and endometriosis. However, a new study has done just that.

Released in July 2018, research was published in the peer review journal Human Reproduction that found that those who had been abused as children (whether emotionally, physically, or sexually) were 79% more likely to have a laparoscopically-confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis than those who were not.3 In particular, the study relied on data collected from 60,595 women within the Nurses’ Health Study II from 1989 to 2013 and is the first of its kind to discover a strong link between endo and early childhood abuse. Among those in the study found to have a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis, there was a stronger correlation between early life abuse and pain-associated endometriosis, as well as connection to an endo diagnosis unrelated to pain pain (such as a diagnosis through infertility).

Conclusions

Of course, this does not mean that all of those who have endo have a history of childhood abuse, or that those with endo who have pain-related symptoms were definitely abused as children. It simply indicates a history of childhood abuse is a potential contributing or exacerbating factor to the disease in a portion of the population that has it. And for those of us who do have a history of childhood trauma and abuse, it can offer a crucial piece of the puzzle in better understanding why we now suffer from this disease.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Endometriosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Felitti V, et al. Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. 1998;14(4):245-258. https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(98)00017-8/abstract. Accessed February 11, 2019.
  2. De Bellis M, Zisk A. The Biological Effects of Childhood Trauma. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2014;23(2):185-222. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3968319/. Accessed February 11, 2019.
  3. Harris H. Early life abuse and risk of endometriosis. Human Reproduction. 2018;33(9):1657-1688. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/humrep/dey248/5055017?redirectedFrom=fulltext. Accessed February 11, 2019.

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