Childhood Abuse Can Cause Endometriosis & Unexplained Infertility

Dawn Davenport



Abuse in childhood can cause endometriosis in adulthood.

Childhood physical or sexual abuse and reproductive disorders later in life.

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.

Image credit: Howard Stanbury

23/10/2012 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 21 Comments

21 Responses to Childhood Abuse Can Cause Endometriosis & Unexplained Infertility

  1. Avatar Linzy says:

    I know i was sexually abused as a child…i hve moved on forgave myself n the person who did it…who has passed on last year aswell…Iam 27 now n hve been trying to conceive since i was 24 to say…n its not happening..there’s this thing that that triggers tht it cud be my past history… I dnt know..but um hopeful for a miracle…

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      We are so sorry to hear of the abuse you suffered as a child. Have you spoken to your medical professionals about this information as it relates to your efforts to get pregnant? We are not medical professionals and therefore cannot offer medical advice, beyond to say that finding a reproductive specialist whom you can trust is a really good idea. Best wishes to you and thanks for following our resources.

  2. Avatar Michele says:

    The title is one of the worst myths I’ve read, except for one in India. There is NO correlation between sexual abuse and Endometriosis, which is GENETIC. HOX Genes 10 and 11 are abhorrent in women with endometriosis. Additionally, women develop the genetic “birth defect” likely in early pregnancy with the mother. This is found in autopsies Endometrial stromal cells have been found in newborns and women in their 70’s. smh..

    • Avatar Tatiana Dolan says:

      You are an idiot Michelle because I was severely abused have experienced stress and anxiety every day of my life as a result of being physically and emotionallytortured which changed my hormones-OBVIOUSLY-being in fight r flight all the tie and now I am suffering endometriosis and NO ONE else IN THe FAMILY HAS IT. I was the only one abused. So take your opinion and shove it!

      • Avatar Kj says:

        You tell him sister!!! The same thing happened to me as well. People that have not suffered this abuse do not get an opinion. Prayers to you in your healing.

      • Avatar Patricia says:

        I, too, experienced a summer of sexual abuse by my paternal grandfather. I was a very obedient child so, as instructed by him, I told no one. The next year when my parents said I would again be going there for the summer, I burst out crying. When they asked why I was crying, I lied saying “There’s no one to play with.” As a result, my cousin, who went with me, and I had a great summer. And I wonder if the abuse caused my infertility. I am approaching age 78.

        • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:


          I’m so very sorry for the pain of the abuse you endured as a child. I’m also grieved for your struggle through infertility. Thank you for sharing your experiences here. As Dawn mentioned in response to another comment, and as we are learning now about Adverse Childhood Events (ACE’s), traumatic events in childhood absolutely can impact health outcomes in later life. It stands to reason that if abuse can increase risk for health issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fibroids, it could impact fertility. I’m so very sorry for those traumas you experienced.

    • Avatar madamemoose says:

      since the word “abhorrent” means hateful, and the one you’re reaching for is obviously “aberrant”, i would have to conclude that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve known for years that my psycho family did this to me. They abused the bejesus out of me, then i got endometriosis and infertility. When i asked other sexual abuse survivors, i found the same thing. Even reading about people no longer with us who suffered this way (marilyn monroe for one) reinforced my theory as correct.
      She was chronically abused sexually and suffered terribly with endometriosis and infertility. I only wonder why people are just reaching these conclusions now — i’ve been onto this tragedy and the unfortunate cause and effect for 15 yrs or more. What a sick world. People need to start valuing women and girls more. People keep getting away with this evil because it’s taken “lightly” by society….”boys will be boys, etc” It ruins lives, puts people in hospitals and causes untold suffering and death. These perps need to start getting 25 to life sentences — then maybe things will improve. Actually, the perps should be executed…… the victims have to live with a life sentence, so the soul-murderers should pay as heavily. God help this disgusting world. Watch your children, believe in them, stand up for them, protect them. [Edited slightly to remove foul language.]

    • Avatar Unknown says:

      Well I have to disagree with because I was so young and a victim of repeated sexual abuse . I have a tilted uterus and my pelvic bone is off a few inches out . Due to the abuse I miscarried so many times . It was hard for my to carry and it broke my heart and no one in my family has it but me and my sister that went through the same thing .

  3. Avatar Kim Whittemore says:

    Dawn, Thank you for sharing this – I have also posted in the Women’s Mental Health and Women’s Sexual Health groups, respectively on Linkedin and shared via facebook and twitter.

  4. Avatar Kristin says:

    Wow, this is interesting.

    ICLW #74 Dragondreamer’s Lair

  5. Avatar Weaslewam says:

    Wow. That’s an amazing link. I wonder if it’s just correlation, like lower incomes may have higher sexual abuse patterns and poorer health care leading to endo. Interesting stuff though!

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Weaslewam, I believe they controlled for socio economic factors.

    • Avatar madamemoose says:

      no. I had a comfy, middle class upbringing, i don’t come from an underprivileged ghetto.
      It would seem to be a “mechanical” problem…… Unfortunatey, some creep is messing with an area that should never be messed with, i.e. forcing himself on a child. Tissue is injured, foreign objects forced upwards, etc…. it follows that inflammation would be pushed up and out through the fallopian tubes, causing the endometriosis; even the endometrial lining itself has been described as being forcibly pushed into an abnormal location (abdomen, ovaries, etc). I cant see the need for some elaborate socio-economic theory when this explanation seems to make sense.

  6. Avatar anon says:

    I hope whatever might be published about this is done in context, or it’s going to reinforce those “maybe if you just relax” cliches. It could be interpreted as infertily as a state of mind (reaction to a life event) rather than an actual medical condition. Or this there something to “relaxing,” or better, seeking therapy to cope with physiological stress? Did the study compare possible infertility due to child abuse to other stressful life events, like war, natural catastrophies, etc? This raises a lot of questions for me!

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      anon, funny you should bring this up. I spoke with the lead researcher, Dr. Stacey Missmer of Harvard, at length about just that point. She also was quite concerned that the results not be interpreted as further fuel for the “it’s all in your head” camp. Her point is that ALL catastrophic life events affect all parts of our bodies and these impacts can last a lifetime. Childhood abuse also increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fibroids, etc.

  7. Avatar Aspgriswold says:

    Stopping by from ICLW!! Happy commenting!

  8. Carolyn Lee Carolyn Lee says:

    It’s amazing you can keep up with the blogs while at the annual meeting!

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