Invited talks

Väisänen, Heini. When a pregnancy does not end in a live birth: quantifying the untold stories of sexual and reproductive health.

British Society for Population Research Annual Conference, Invited Early Career Plenary, online, September 2021.


Fertility is one of the core topics of demographic research, but less attention has been paid to researching pregnancies that do not end in live births. In my presentation, I argue that an understanding of full pregnancy histories, their causes, consequences and contexts are important for a comprehensive understanding of fertility behaviour, and the life courses of those who can become pregnant. I discuss how stigmatisation and data gaps affect the study of induced abortions and miscarriages particularly when using quantitative methods. I summarise what is already known and what remains to be discovered thus suggesting directions for future research.

Väisänen, Heini. A life course perspective to fertility and women’s health.

University of Exeter Q-estival, Invited plenary, Exeter, United Kingdom, September 2019.


We know less about the life course determinants of women’s than men’s health. Traditional life course epidemiology tends to focus on key elements of male life course (e.g. work history), but family events are often ignored. First, work history may have a different effect on women’s than men’s health outcomes. Second, family and pregnancy histories can affect women’s mental and physical health outcomes directly and indirectly e.g. through social determinants of health, stress, and support from social networks. I will discuss how timing of pregnancies affects socioeconomic outcomes; the importance of family and fertility events on mental wellbeing in later life; and the effect of pregnancy history on physical health among post-menopausal women. Evidence spans countries such as Finland, the UK and Indonesia. Finally, I will outline the main research gaps and give suggestions for future studies.

Väisänen, Heini. The Wonderland of Statistics? History, access and uses of Finnish register data.

University of Goldsmiths’ Sociology Seminar series, Invited speaker, London, United Kingdom, October 2013.

Social scientists need longitudinal data with information of key life-events of individuals in order to better understand human behaviour. However, collecting panel data is expensive and time consuming. Administrative registers have considerable advantages as data sources, since longitudinal and nationally representative studies can be conducted with relatively small costs.

For the past 25 years information regarding Finnish population has been collected on annual basis using administrative registers rather than census. Data from different registers can be linked at individual-level using a unique identification number each permanent resident holds. Evaluation studies confirm that registers are reliable sources of information.

However, ethics regulations limit the information that can be linked from different registers for study purposes. Not everything that is interesting from the point of view of a social scientist is registered (e.g. attitudes, beliefs). Access to these data is often difficult.

I will provide an example of the use of register data by telling about my research “A Life Course Perspective to Abortions in Finland”, which aims to discover how the life course pathways of women having abortions differ from other women, and how these patterns have changed over time for three female birth cohorts.