New information on reproductive health in St Petersburg


Abortions are still very common in St Petersburg, as is the use of unreliable contraceptives, despite the fact that sexual education reaches out to young people better than before. The social change is especially evident from the active sexual behaviour among young men.

The Reproductive Health and Fertility Patterns research consortium (REFER) of the Academy of Finland's Russia in Flux research programme has produced two reports on women's and young men's reproductive health in St Petersburg, sexuality, families, living conditions and thoughts on having children. According to the questionnaire-based reports, health, family life and sexuality in St Petersburg are undergoing a change.

The nuclear family model with parents and children is becoming an ever more widespread model, even though families that have been extended with relatives are still common. Russian women normally give birth to one child, even if two children is still the ideal number. Every second mother in St Petersburg breastfeeds for over five months and only a small percentage do not breastfeed at all. A majority of women have experienced some sort of health problems and one in ten are very dissatisfied with their health. One in five women have experienced unintended infertility, but very few had decided to undergo tests or expensive treatment.

Abortion Still Used As a Means to Contraception

There are several positive developments evident in sexual education at present. Young women in St Petersburg receive ever better sexual education both at home and at school and they also use reliable contraceptives more often than before. However, the majority of young women still want more information on issues of sexuality. The culture of abortions dating back to soviet times has not disappeared: half of all 18-24-year-old women, who have been pregnant, have had an abortion. More than half of the young women use unreliable contraceptives or none at all. Many women report that they have had one or some sexually transmitted diseases.

Young men in St Petersburg are sexually very active. In comparison to women in St Petersburg and Finnish men, they report earlier and more sexual intercourse and more experience of paid sex. The social change seems to have particularly affected the behaviour of young men.

The surveys are part of the research conducted by the REFER research consortium (Reproductive health and fertility patterns in Russia - a comparative approach) lead by Professor Elina Hemminki. The descriptive research results are exploited in health training and development in Russia and for further research in the international researcher network of the consortium. The two most important partners in the surveys in St Petersburg were MAPS (St Petersburg Medical Academy of Postgraduate Studies) and CISR (Centre for Independent Social Research). Besides the Academy of Finland, funding has also been provided by the Baltic Sea Task Force and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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