This paper presents selected findings from a larger study on reproductive tract infections (RTIs) among women seeking abortion in Northern Vietnam. In particular it focuses on women's experience of RTIs within the context of their perceptions of female physiology and what women do to prevent and treat RTIs. The approach used was a combination of the quantitative and the qualitative: 748 structured interviews were undertaken before, and 701 after, abortion; and in-depth interviews were carried out with 20 women and 20 healthcare providers. Both healthcare providers and women believed that RTIs are an essential and normal part of womanhood. Reproductive tract infections were associated with laziness, being unclean and hesitance in using health facilities for help with gynecological problems. Women used various forms of self-treatment, including some that may be medically harmful. Women's preventive and treatment strategies were often supported and sometimes even promoted by healthcare providers. We assess women's strategies for RTI prevention and treatment in the context of the current Vietnamese health system and from a gender perspective. These strategies highlight inadequacies in the public healthcare system, while also pointing to important cultural paradoxes in the understanding of womanhood in contemporary Vietnam.
Keywords: Abortion, Induced; Adolescent; Adult; Female; Genital Diseases, Female; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Humans; Middle Aged; Patient Acceptance of Health Care; Patient Education as Topic; Primary Prevention; Questionnaires; Sexually Transmitted Diseases; Vietnam; Women's Health; Women's Health Services