Bangladesh Midlife Women’s Health Study

Bangladesh Midlife Women’s Health Study (BMWHS): Methods, challenges and experiences


To understand the challenges and experiences encountered during data collection for Bangladesh Midlife Women’s Health Study (BMWHS) that investigated the low uptake of cervical cancer (CCa) screening barriers, understanding of breast cancer (BCa) knowledge and practices, the prevalenceof urinary and fecal incontinence and menopausal symptoms.


A multi stage cluster sampling technique was used to recruit women from the 32 districts of Bangladesh that had offered CCa screening. Female interviewers were trained to undertake structured face-to-face interviews that incorporated both non-validated and several validated questionnaires, such as Question for Urinary Incontinence Diagnosis, Pelvic Organ Prolapse Distress Inventory, Colorectal-Anal Distress Inventory and Menopause-Specific Quality of Life.


We completed surveys of 1,590 women, estimated age 30–59 years, between September 2013 and March 2014. We implemented several strategies to deal with low literacy and used the temporal relationship between marriage and childbirth, and the average age of onset of menarche, to estimate age. Cultural and religious sensitivities and personal security were managed by engaging community leaders, limiting activities to daylight hours, adopting local codes of dress, such as the wearing of head scarves. Our major challenges and experiences included difficulties in age determination, selection of and access to households, interview privacy, lack of basic and health literacy, transportation, political unrest and security of the interviewers.


By anticipating challenges, we have been able to comprehensively survey a representative sample of Bangladeshi women. Disseminating information about the field challenges and experiences from the BMWHS should assist other researchers planning to conduct surveys about women’s health issues in similar context.

Islam RM, Bell RJ, Hossain MB, Davis SR. Maturitas 80 (2015) 89-94