Childhood Abuse and Common Complaints in Pregnancy Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Childhood abuse affects adult health. The objective of this study was to examine the prevalence of emotional, physical, and sexual childhood abuse within a large Norwegian cohort of pregnant women and its association with common complaints in pregnancy. METHODS: This study is based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Regression analyses were used to examine associations of childhood abuse and 16 common complaints in pregnancy. RESULTS: Eighteen percent (10,363/55,776) of the women reported some type of childhood abuse. Of all women, 3,870 (6.9%) reported sexual abuse, 3,075 (5.5%) physical abuse, and 7,619 (13.6%) emotional abuse as a child. Of those reporting childhood abuse, 31 percent reported two or more types of abuse. All 16 common complaints in pregnancy were associated with reported childhood abuse. Women reporting three types of childhood abuse reported 5.4 common complaints in pregnancy (mean) compared with 3.7 for women without childhood abuse (p < 0.001). Women reporting childhood abuse are more likely to report seven or more common complaints in pregnancy: adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.7 (95% CI 1.6-1.9) for emotional abuse; AOR 2.5 (95% CI 2.0-3.1) for combined physical and sexual abuse; and AOR 3.5 (95% CI 3.0-4.0) for all three kinds of abuse. Sociodemographic characteristics and other risk factors did not explain this graded association. CONCLUSIONS: Abuse in childhood is associated with increased reporting of common complaints of pregnancy. Clinicians should consider the possible role of childhood abuse when treating women with many common complaints in pregnancy.

publication date

  • September 2009

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