Correlation between an early sexual debut, and reproductive health and behavioral factors: a multinational European study

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether women who made an early sexual debut differ from those with a later debut regarding genital signs and symptoms. METHODS: The study included women who considered themselves gynecologically healthy and who attended 17 family planning centers in 13 European countries for contraceptive advice. There were 629 women who made their sexual debut at the age of 16 years or earlier (study population) and 927 women who had their first sexual intercourse at the age of 19 years or later (comparison group). Genital symptoms and signs, contraceptive use, smoking, and genital hygiene habits and previous genital infections were recorded on a structured patient record form. Detection of Chlamydia trachomatis was made by means of a polymerase chain reaction on first-void urine. The study was made, on average, 7-10 years after the women's sexual debut. RESULTS: The mean age of first intercourse was 15.3 years for the study group versus 20.7 years for the control group (p < 0.001). The study population had significantly more symptoms, such as vaginal discharge and pruritus, and signs, such as abnormal discharge, erythema of the vaginal mucosa and lower genital tract infections, than the comparison group. Twice as many women in the study group were smokers and there was a ten-fold increase among these subjects of using low-pH solutions for genital hygiene. The prevalence of C. trachomatis infection did not differ between the two groups (p = 0.22). CONCLUSION: Age at first intercourse is not only a predictor of sexual risk behavior, but also a predictor, regarding both signs and symptoms, of future gynecological problems.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-182
JournalEuropean Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care
Volume5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes