This article presents the results of an assessment of gynecological morbidity among 385 women with young children residing in a district of Karnataka State, South India. All three main modes of assessment (clinical examination, laboratory tests, and self-reports) reveal a high burden of reproductive tract infections. The two most common conditions, identified by laboratory tests, were bacterial vaginosis and mucopurulent cervicitis. Approximately one-fourth of the women had clinical evidence of pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical ectopy, and fistula. The contribution of sexually transmitted diseases to overall gynecological morbidity appears to be relatively modest; 10 percent were so diagnosed. Associated conditions of anemia and chronic energy deficiency were common. Severe anemia was found in 17 percent of cases and severe chronic energy deficiency in 12 percent. These results indicate that radical improvements in women's health in India will require far more than the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive tract infections.
PIP: An assessment of gynecological morbidity among 385 married mothers of children 6-12 months of age from a district in South India's Karnataka State revealed a high burden of reproductive tract infections. Research methods included clinical examination, laboratory tests, and self-reports. A total of 152 women reported 226 gynecological complaints to a social worker, primarily vaginal discharge with bad odor and itching or irritation (22%), lower abdominal pain or vaginal discharge with fever (16%), and menstrual bleeding disorders or pain (15%). Under more extensive probing by a gynecologist, the proportion of women reporting menstrual problems rose to 62%. At medical examination, 36% of women had at least one clinically diagnosed reproductive tract infection, including pelvic inflammatory disease (11%), cervical ectopy (10%), and genital prolapse (3%). More than half had endogenous infections. The two most common infections, identified by laboratory tests, were bacterial vaginosis (18%) and mucopurulent cervicitis (37%). Sexually transmitted diseases, primarily trichomonal vaginalis, were diagnosed in 10%. Women residing in town, those with 6 or more years of schooling, and women with 4 or more pregnancies were significantly more likely to report menstrual problems. Laboratory-detected vaginosis was significantly higher among urban and sterilized women. There were no significant associations between demographic/socioeconomic status variables and the other reproductive health problems analyzed. Finally, severe anemia was present in 17% and chronic energy deficiency in 12%. The combination of widespread undernutrition/malnutrition and reproductive tract infections revealed in this study indicates an urgent need to take steps to implement the reproductive health strategy outlined at the 1994 Cairo Conference in South India.