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Russian Roulette For The Womb: Seven Sex Partners 'Guarantees Infertility'


A Russian regional health minister has this bit of medical advice for women: be careful that you don't have too many male partners before trying to bear children, otherwise you won't be able to give birth.

"If a woman has seven men before the birth of her first child, then that means 100 percent she will be infertile," Vladimir Viktorov, Chuvashia's top health official, said during a February 19 conference attended by regional head Mikhail Ignatyev and other officials.

The 48-year-old Viktorov is a dentist by training who was appointed in March 2017 as health minister of the Volga region located about 700 kilometers east of Moscow. Audio of his comments published by the local news portal Pravdapfo and by Dozhd TV caused a stir on social media and have since been defended by the region's top physician.

The audience of an estimated 200 can be heard murmuring loudly in response to Viktorov's claim, prompting the father of two to say: "This information is a fact. It's an interesting subject, yes? Everyone's getting worked up now. Think about it."

Viktorov's comments, made during a review of achievements made last year in the region's second-largest city, Novocheboksarsk, elicited mockery and outrage on Russian social media, with some questioning his medical qualifications.

Chuvashia's Health Ministry, however, came to Viktorov's defense on February 20, issuing a statement by the region's head physician noting the dangers that some sexually transmitted diseases pose to women's reproductive systems.

The doctor, Sergei Milayev, concludes that even a small number of sexual partners -- and the frequent changing of them -- "can lead to tubal peritoneal infertility."

"We do not advise playing roulette [with your body]. You may not be lucky," Milayev says. "Our main task as parents is to educate our children about chastity, which is the most reliable guarantee of health, including reproductive health, because any disease is easier to prevent than to treat."

The comments follow other dubious medical claims made by prominent health and social-welfare officials in Russia -- particularly about sexuality.

In 2016, Russia's national children's rights commissioner, Anna Kuznetsova, came under fire for an interview she gave three years earlier in which she discussed abortions and telegony, or "womb memory", a widely debunked theory that every sexual partner a woman has ever had can physically and emotionally influence a child she gives birth to.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent in Prague, where he reports on developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and money laundering. Before joining RFE/RL in 2015, he worked for the Associated Press in Moscow. He has also reported and edited for The Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News.

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    Michael Scollon

    Michael Scollon is a senior correspondent in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom in Prague.

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