Sexual Violence, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and the Pelvic Examination: How Do Beliefs About the Safety, Necessity, and Utility of the Examination Influence Patient Experiences?

Center for Health Care Evaluation, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California 94025, USA.
Journal of Women's Health (Impact Factor: 2.05). 07/2010; 19(7):1271-80. DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1673
Source: PubMed


Sexual violence and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been linked to increased reports of distress and pain during the pelvic examination. Efforts to more fully characterize these reactions and identify core factors (i.e., beliefs about the examination) that may influence these reactions are warranted.
This descriptive, cross-sectional study examines the relationship between sexual violence, PTSD, and women's negative reactions to the pelvic examination. Additional analyses highlight how maladaptive beliefs about the safety, necessity, and utility of the pelvic examination may contribute to these reactions. Materials and
A total of 165 eligible women veterans were identified via medical record review and mailed a survey that assessed: (1) background information; (2) history of sexual violence; (3) current symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder; (4) fear, embarrassment, distress, and pain during the pelvic examination; and (5) core beliefs about the examination. Ninety women (55% response rate) completed the survey.
Women with both sexual violence and PTSD reported the highest levels of examination related fear: chi(2) = 18.8, p < .001; embarrassment: chi(2) = 21.2, p < .001; and distress: chi(2) = 18.2, p < .001. Beliefs that the examination was unnecessary or unsafe or not useful were more commonly reported in this group and were associated with higher levels of examination-related fear and embarrassment.
Women with sexual violence and PTSD find the pelvic examination distressing, embarrassing, and frightening. Efforts to develop interventions to help reduce distress during the examination are warranted.

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    • "In spite of these limitations, this was the first study obtaining an inventory of SA in colonoscopy patients, identifying their needs regarding the colonoscopic procedure and comparing experienced discomfort during colonoscopy between patients with and without SA. Our results were consistent with prior research showing that female patients with a history of SA reported more discomfort and anxiety during gynecological examination [12], [31]–[33]. And confirmed the link between sexual abuse, abdominal pain and multiple GI-complaints already found in the early nineties by Drossman et al. which has been verified in many studies afterwards [6], [34], [35]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual abuse has been linked to strong effects on gastrointestinal health. Colonoscopy can provoke intense emotional reactions in patients with a sexual abuse history and may lead to avoidance of endoscopic procedures. To determine whether care around colonoscopy needs adjustment for patients with sexual abuse experience, thereby exploring targets for the improvement of care around colonoscopic procedures. Questionnaires were mailed to patients (n = 1419) from two centers within 11 months after colonoscopy. Differences in experience of the colonoscopy between patients with and without a sexual abuse history were assessed and patients' views regarding physicians' inquiry about sexual abuse and care around endoscopic procedures were obtained. A total of 768 questionnaires were analyzed. The prevalence of sexual abuse was 3.9% in male and 9.5% in female patients. Patients born in a non-western country reported more sexual abuse (14.9%) than those born in a western country (6.3%; p = 0.008). Discomfort during colonoscopy was indicated on a scale from 0 to 10, mean distress score of patients with sexual abuse was 4.8(±3.47) compared to 3.5(±3.11) in patients without a sexual abuse history (p = 0.007). Abdominal pain was a predictor for higher distress during colonoscopy (β = -0.019 (SE = 0.008); p = 0.02, as well as the number of complaints indicated as reason for colonoscopy (β = 0.738 (SE = 0.276); p = 0.008). Of patients with sexual abuse experience, 53.8% believed gastroenterologists should ask about it, 43.4% said deeper sedation during colonoscopy would diminish the distress. Sexual abuse is prevalent in patients presenting for colonoscopy. Patients with a sexual abuse history experience more distress during the procedure and indicate that extra attention around and during colonoscopy may diminish this distress.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    • "Additionally, many VHA providers have not been routinely caring for women during their VHA careers and lack the ability to provide gender-specific services (i.e., care that is dictated by gender, such as pelvic examinations and pap smears). Moreover, the prevalence of comorbid interpersonal trauma among women Veteran patients also creates challenges for delivery of comprehensive care as routine gender-specific examinations and procedures, such as pelvic exams, are often more difficult for these patients (Weitlauf et al. 2010). As a result, VHA has launched large-scale training programs to expand the capacity of providers to deliver comprehensive gender-specific care to women Veterans. "
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    • "Socially deprived neighborhoods in the U.S. are often affected by both criminal violence and residential instability [17]. It is possible that women are particularly vulnerable to stressors such as sexual violence [32]. Consistent with this hypothesis are the results of a 2011 U.S. study, which found that violence was associated with women's cervical cancer morbidity [33]. "
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