Treatment-seeking for symptoms of reproductive tract infections among young women in India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Context: Small proportions of Indian women report seeking treatment for symptoms suggestive of reproductive tract infections (RTIs). Most studies on treatment-seeking have focused broadly on women of reproductive age, and little is known about the experiences of adolescent girls and young women, particularly the unmarried. Methods: Data from 2,742 married and 2,108 unmarried women aged 15-24 who reported at least one symptom of an RTI in the past three months were drawn from a subnationally representative survey of youth in India in 2006-2008. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was conducted to identify associations between respondents' characteristics and treatment-seeking from a formal medical provider. In addition, among those who had used such providers, associations between characteristics and use of private rather than public providers were identified. Results: About two-fifths of married and one-third of unmarried women had sought treatment from formal medical providers for their RTI symptoms. While married women's experience of intimate partner violence was negatively associated with seeking treatment from a formal provider (odds ratio, 0.8), their perceived access to sexual and reproductive health services and their awareness of STI symptoms were positively associated with such treatment (1.3-1.4). Both married and unmarried women were more likely to seek treatment from private than from public providers, and two indicators of women's autonomy were positively correlated with using private providers (1.6-2.8). Conclusions: Limited treatment-seeking for RTI symptoms by young women underscores the need to address power imbalances within marriage and to encourage health care providers to develop appropriate strategies to reach younger, as well as unmarried, women.