A comprehensive women’s health survey to begin at the University of Oulu

A total of 4,500 women will receive an invitation to a comprehensive health survey. The persons to be surveyed belong to the Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC) 1986. A majority of the participants are now 34 years old.

The goal of the research project led by Professor Terhi Piltonen from the University of Oulu is to widely clarify the impact of gynaecological factors on women’s health.

“A similar health survey has never been done before. It involves a large number of gynaecological disease specialists as well as other experts,” Piltonen says.

In addition to gynaecological symptoms, the researchers will focus on women’s general sexual well-being.

“Through the survey, we can obtain information on, for example, the image women have of their own bodies and their body image satisfaction,” Piltonen explains.

The aim is to examine at least 2,000 women during research appointments in Oulu and Helsinki. In addition to an interview, the examination day will include measures such as taking a blood sample, a gynaecological ultrasound examination, examinations related to ovarian ageing and an ultrasound examination focusing on diastasis recti and fatty degeneration of the liver. A number of basic measurements will also be carried out. The survey form will clarify the women’s quality of life, any gynaecological symptoms and other illnesses.

“The participants will receive valuable data on their own health, and any findings requiring further examinations will be sent forward,” Piltonen promises.

For example, a gynaecological ultrasound examination can provide an indicative assessment of the functionality of the ovaries.

“The impact of ageing on women’s fertility has been a common topic in public debate in the recent years. Fertility begins a clear downward trend as early as 15 years before the menopause. A healthy lifestyle generally improves fertility, but even that does not, unfortunately, prevent ovarian ageing,” Piltonen states.

Another affliction that interests researchers is the relatively unknown vulvodynia, which means protracted pain of at least three months in duration in the external female genitals. It is estimated that 10-30% of women suffer from symptoms related to vulvodynia at some point before reaching the menopausal age. Various factors are believed to play a role in the development of vulvodynia, but previous research data on, for example, the impact of hormonal contraception is contradictory.

“More research is needed in order to help women even more efficiently to alleviate this condition that negatively impacts their quality of life,” says Piltonen.

In addition to Piltonen, Research Physician Susanna Savukoski, Coordinating Nurse, Midwife Lotta Vuokila and Research Nurse Elina Huikari belong to the research team staff in Oulu.

Last updated: 1.12.2021