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Obstet Gynecol. 1994 Aug;84(2):193-9.

Abuse history and chronic pain in women: I. Prevalences of sexual abuse and physical abuse.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City.



To compare the prevalences of childhood and adult physical and sexual abuse in women with chronic pelvic pain to those in women with chronic nonpelvic pain (headache) and pain-free women.


Using a structured interview, we assessed the prevalence rates of both sexual abuse and physical abuse in 64 women with chronic pelvic pain, 42 women with chronic headache, and 46 pain-free women. Abuse histories were stratified by age at occurrence and severity. Demographic characteristics of the three groups were also assessed.


Women with chronic pelvic pain were found to have a higher lifetime prevalence of sexual abuse, involving penetration or other contact with the unclothed genitals or anus (ie, major sexual abuse), than either comparison group. Further, more women in the chronic pelvic pain group had experienced major sexual abuse in both childhood and adulthood than women in the headache group, but there was no difference with the pain-free group. With respect to physical abuse, women in the chronic pelvic pain group had a higher lifetime prevalence than pain-free women, but not compared to those with chronic headache. In addition, more women with chronic pelvic pain reported physical abuse in both childhood and adulthood and both major sexual abuse and physical abuse at some time in their lives than did either comparison group.


These results support a specific association between major sexual abuse and chronic pelvic pain and a more general association between physical abuse and chronic pain. Moreover, the global nature of the abuse histories of the women in the chronic pelvic pain group suggests that more rigorous studies of the relation between abuse history and chronic pelvic pain are needed.

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