Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Childhood abuse and vasomotor symptoms among midlife women

Carson, Mary Y. BS1; Thurston, Rebecca C. PhD1,2,3

doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001366
Original Articles

Objective: Childhood maltreatment is related to adverse health outcomes. However, the relation of childhood maltreatment to the menopause transition—a universal transition for women often accompanied by troubling symptoms such as vasomotor symptoms—is relatively underexplored. This study tested whether childhood abuse and neglect are associated with menopausal vasomotor symptoms, utilizing both physiologic and prospective self-report measures of vasomotor symptoms.

Methods: In all, 295 nonsmoking perimenopausal and postmenopausal women aged 40 to 60 years with and without vasomotor symptoms completed psychosocial measures, including the Child Trauma Questionnaire, ambulatory physiologic (sternal skin conductance) and self-report measurement of vasomotor symptoms during wake and sleep, and actigraphy measurement of sleep. Relationships between childhood abuse/neglect and vasomotor symptoms during wake and sleep were tested in linear regression models controlling for demographics, body mass index, and menopause stage.

Results: 44% of the sample reported abuse or neglect during childhood. Among women reporting vasomotor symptoms, childhood sexual or physical abuse was associated with more frequent physiologically-recorded vasomotor symptoms during sleep (sexual abuse: b [SE] = 1.45 [0.52], P = 0.006; physical abuse: b [SE] = 0.97 [0.47], P = 0.03) in multivariable models. Among these women, women with a physical or sexual abuse history had approximately 1.5 to 2-fold the number of sleep vasomotor symptoms than women without this history.

Conclusions: Childhood abuse is associated with more frequent physiologically-detected vasomotor symptoms during sleep.

1Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

2Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA

3Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA.

Address correspondence to: Mary Y. Carson, BS, University of Pittsburgh, 201 N Craig St, Rm 207, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. E-mail:

Received 26 February, 2019

Revised 15 April, 2019

Accepted 15 April, 2019

Funding/support: This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (R01HL105647, K24HL123565 to Thurston). The National Institutes of Health funded this work and approved the initial study design, but was not involved in the conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; nor the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: Thurston—MAS Innovation (consulting), Pfizer (consulting), Procter & Gamble (consulting). Carson—None reported.

Online date: June 3, 2019

© 2019 by The North American Menopause Society.