Adult-onset vulvodynia in relation to childhood violence victimization

Bernard L. Harlow, Elizabeth Gunther Stewart

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125 Scopus citations


Researchers have failed to find a consistent association between childhood victimization and vulvodynia, a debilitating, unexplained vulvar pain condition. However, selection bias associated with case ascertainment, and differential reporting bias between clinic-based cases and controls, may explain in part the inconsistent findings. In 2000-2003, the authors identified 125 women experiencing symptoms of vulvar pain consistent with vulvodynia and 125 age- and community-matched controls from the Boston, Massachusetts-area general population. Telephone-administered questionnaires were used to obtain medical, psychiatric, and reproductive histories. Self-administered surveys assessed childhood exposure (age <12 years) to physical and sexual abuse and to poor family support. After author adjustment for socioeconomic position, women with vulvar pain versus controls were 2.6 times more likely to report never/rarely receiving childhood family support, such as comfort, encouragement, and love (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3, 5.1). Adult-onset vulvodynia was strongly associated with abuse as a child more than a few times physically (odds ratio (OR) = 4.1, 95% CI: 1.7, 10.0) or sexually (OR = 6.5, 95% CI: 1.2, 35.1). When abused women were compared with those with no history of abuse, the association was largely confined to those harmed by a primary family member (OR = 3.6, 95% CI: 1.6, 8.0 for physical abuse; OR = 4.4, 95% CI: 0.9, 22.9 for sexual abuse). Additional population-based studies of clinically confirmed cases of vulvodynia are needed to replicate this association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-880
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Case-control studies
  • Child abuse
  • Dyspareunia
  • Genitalia, female
  • Pain
  • Vulva
  • Vulvar diseases
  • Women


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