Histories of abuse predict stronger within-person covariation of ovarian steroids and mood symptoms in women with menstrually related mood disorder

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 May;67:142-52. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.01.026. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


Objective: Individual differences in sensitivity to cyclical changes in ovarian steroids estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) have been implicated in the pathophysiology of menstrually related mood disorder (MRMD). However, no prospective studies have investigated psychosocial risk factors for sensitivity to hormone effects on mood in MRMD. Using a repeated measures approach and multilevel models, we tested the hypothesis that a history of abuse provides a context in which within-person elevations of E2 and P4 prospectively predict daily symptoms.

Method: 66 women with prospectively-confirmed MRMD recruited for a trial of oral contraceptives provided 1 month of baseline hormone and mood data prior to randomization. Lifetime physical and sexual abuse experiences were assessed. Across one cycle, women completed daily measures of symptoms and provided blood samples on 5 days across the menstrual cycle. Current E2 and P4 were centered within person (CWP) such that higher values represented cyclical elevations in hormones.

Results: Rates of physical (27%) and sexual (29%) abuse were high, consistent with previous work documenting a link between trauma and MRMD. In women with a history of physical abuse, cyclical increases in P4 predicted greater mood and interpersonal symptoms on the three days following that sample. In women with a history of sexual abuse, cyclical increases in E2 predicted greater anxiety symptoms on the three days following that sample.

Conclusions: Results inform further inquiry into the role of severe life stressors and stress response systems in MRMD. We discuss areas for future research on the psychosocial and physiological pathways through which abuse may influence the link between hormones and symptoms.

Keywords: Abuse; Estradiol; Ovarian steroid hormones; Premenstrual dysphoric disorder; Progesterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Estradiol / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / blood
  • Menstrual Cycle / psychology
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / blood
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / psychology*
  • Progesterone / blood*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol