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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

12 - Qualitative methods in gynaecological morbidity research


Initial community-based studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s that explored the issue of gynaecological morbidity focused mainly on the clinical assessment of prevalence (Bang et al., 1989; Younis, Khattab and Zurayk, 1993). These early studies faced several methodological challenges in assessing valid prevalence figures due to the sensitive nature of gynaecological morbidity (Koenig et al., 1998; Population Council, 1996). A few studies tested the predictive value of symptoms, such as vaginal discharge, for reproductive tract infections (Bulut et al., 1995; Zurayk and Khattab, 1995). Others tested algorithms as a tool for the diagnosis and management of reproductive tract infections (e.g. Vuylsteke et al., 1993). Still others moved beyond prevalence studies and used qualitative methodological approaches to explore women's perceptions of reproductive tract infections. These methods enabled researchers to explore women's perceptions of the gynaecological problems they encounter in terms of etiology, symptoms, and to some degree the severity of illnesses and health seeking behaviours (Gittelsohn et al., 1994; Oomman, 1996). In spite of a decade of research in the field, several dimensions of gynaecological morbidity remain relatively unexplored and could be more comprehensively investigated using a qualitative research approach. The social, behavioural and biomedical determinants, including sexual and reproductive health-related behaviours and men's roles in women's health, require further elucidation. Similarly, the consequences of gynaecological morbidity, including health seeking behaviour and the impact of morbidity on women's physical and mental health, have not been well described.

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