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University of Tartu launching Estonia's biggest women's health study yet

Gynecologist's office.
Gynecologist's office. Source: Jürgen Randma/Government Office

On Wednesday, more than 12,000 women across the country will receive invitations to participate in a major women's health study. Conducted by a team of gynecologists at the Tartu University Hospital (TÜK) Women's Clinic in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, this study will mark the largest yet of its kind in Estonia.

Helle Karro, a gynecologist at the TÜK Women's Clinic and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at TÜ, said that it's important for doctors that decisions and approaches concerning women's health be evidence-based.

In Estonia, gynecologists conduct major health studies of women every ten years to gain insight into changes over time- as well as make better decisions in the field. This year's study is more extensive than before – for the first time, the study will involve more than 12,000 women between the ages of 16-59.

In an appearance on Vikerraadio's "Vikerhommik" Tuesday morning, gynecologist Kai Part, another member of the study team, explained that the objective of the study is to understand women's needs and expectations when it comes to sexual and reproductive health, as well as explore what factors affect women's health.

The TÜ study team. Top row, from left to right: Mall Eltermaa, Kristiina Paju and Miina Hein. Bottom row: Kai Part, Helle Karro and Made Laanpere. Source: University of Tartu

The survey includes questions about contraceptive use, experiences of violence, experiences with pregnancy and infertility as well as contacts related to medical services.

"Every woman's experience is different, and the more survey respondents, the more accurate a picture we get of problems, expectations and needs," Karro explained. "For example, we learned from the 2014 study that one in ten women in Estonia experiences physical, psychological and sexual abuse both in their childhood and as an adult. Previously, we only knew about reported incidents of abuse, and much of the issue was hidden."

This year's study will also focus on new topics, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women's sexual health-related decisions and the availability of services, as well as previously unexplored topics including menopause-related issues and the impact of menstruation on participation in school or work life as well as on quality of life.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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