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Women associated vaginal symptoms with disease and sexual infidelity

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Q How do women interpret vaginal sensations as symptoms and construct these symptoms as problems requiring medical care?


Qualitative study.


A family health centre serving a multi-ethnic, working class population in New York City, USA.


44 women >18 years of age who were diagnosed with vaginitis (ICD-9 code 616.10) in the previous 4 months.


Women participated in semistructured telephone interviews of 30–45 minutes, during which interviewers took indepth notes. Data collection and analysis were based on an iterative process. Women were asked to generate illness narratives of symptom and treatment experiences. The semistructured component of the interview was based on the Illness Representation Model.


Most women had some combination of itching, discharge, and odour. Conceptions of [a] normal [vagina]. Women judged normality based on characteristics of vaginal discharge (eg, quantity, …

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  • For correspondence: Dr A Karasz, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA.

  • Source of funding: no external funding.