Women who have experienced sexual assault may be more likely to suffer from infertility, a new study has found.
The findings of the study, which looked specifically at female veterans, are to be presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's conference in Denver this week.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa, who were surprised to find a link between sexual assault and rates of infertility.
The researchers interviewed 1,000 female veterans and concluded that sexual assault was a major factor in distinguishing the infertile study participants from the fertile ones.
Out of the 1,000 interviewed, one in five were found to be infertile (18 per cent), but to the surprise of the researchers, those who were infertile were far more likely to have been sexually assaulted compared to the fertile participants.
While 45 per cent of the fertile group reported experiencing sexual assault, this figure rose to 60 per cent in the infertile group.
Catherine Racowsky, PhD, vice president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, said the numbers of female veterans who had experienced sexual assault was 'strikingly high'.
'This study reinforces our understanding that infertility is often related to other health conditions,' she said.
'A crucial finding here is the strikingly high number of our female veterans who have suffered from sexual assault, and its potential to impact on their fertility.'
The study participants were American women between the ages of 21 and 52 who had served in the armed forces.
Researchers found that the infertile group also had a higher rate of cancer, with 14 per cent having suffered from the illness, compared to only eight per cent of the fertile group.
They were also more likely to experience chronic pain - 65 per cent compared to 54 per cent.
The infertile group were also more likely to smoke, be older and come from non-white ethnic groups.