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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2014 Sep;23(9):729-39. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2013.4674. Epub 2014 Aug 6.

Early life emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and the development of premenstrual syndrome: a longitudinal study.

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1 Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts , Amherst, Massachusetts.



Previous studies have suggested that violence victimization is prevalent among women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, it is unclear whether early life abuse contributes directly to PMS or whether associations are explained by the high prevalence of PMS risk factors including smoking and obesity among women reporting childhood abuse.


We have assessed the relation of early life abuse and the incidence of moderate-to-severe PMS in a study nested within the prospective Nurses' Health Study 2. Participants were aged 27-44 years and free from PMS at baseline, including 1,018 cases developing PMS over 14 years and 2,277 comparison women experiencing minimal menstrual symptoms. History of early life emotional, physical, and sexual abuse was self-reported in 2001.


After adjustment for obesity, smoking, and other factors, emotional abuse was strongly related to PMS (pTrend<0.0001); women reporting the highest level of emotional abuse had 2.6 times the risk of PMS as those reporting no emotional abuse (95% confidence interval, 1.7-3.9). Women reporting severe childhood physical abuse had an odds ratio of 2.1 (95% confidence interval, 1.5-2.9; pTrend<0.001) compared with those reporting no physical abuse. Sexual abuse was less strongly associated with risk. Adjustment for childhood social support minimally affected findings.


Findings from this large prospective study suggest that early life emotional and physical abuse increase the risk of PMS in the middle-to-late reproductive years. The persistence of associations after control for potential confounders and mediators supports the hypothesis that early life abuse is importantly related to PMS.

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