The harmful practice of Obstetric Fistula….

Since obstetric fistula (OF) remains a source of public health concern and is one of the most devastating maternal morbidities afflicting about two million women, mostly in developing countries.  IBIENE joins advocates all over the world to lend her voice in commemoration of the International Day to Ending Obstetric Fistula by 2030.

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Each year between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula. This is an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum. The development of obstetric fistula is directly linked to one of the major causes of maternal mortality: obstructed labour.

Women who experience obstetric fistula suffer constant incontinence, shame, social segregation and health problems. It is estimated that more than two million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Factors fueling the incidence of obstetric fistula includes;

Socio-economic factors: 

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Studies have shown that such acts predominately occur among women with low economic status compared to their wealthy peers. Likewise, living in rural areas put women more at risk of obstetric fistula, because not only are they marginalized in terms of health infrastructure, but they often live in remote areas, too far from health centres where they can receive timely medical attention.


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Malnutrition as a result of insufficient calcium and vitamin D could result in pelvic deformities or underdeveloped pelvis. The Nigeria demographic health survey (NDHS) 2018 showed 12 per cent of women of reproductive age (15-49 years) are underweight, with a body mass index of less than 18.5 and this has remained consistent at the same value for over a decade.


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Education is constantly an essential part of any strategy on eradicating a disease of which Obstetrics Fistula is included. It does not only make the women and community knowledgeable; it also aids empowering women with resultant alleviation of poverty which has been documented as risk factors for Obstetrics Fistula.

Early marriage/childbearing: 

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Early marriage is associated with maternal and infant morbidities since the woman would be biologically, economically and socially unprepared to cater for a family. Child marriage and childbearing at a young age contribute to the unacceptably high incidence of obstetric fistula.

Psychosocial damage: 

Image ref: Fundacion Mujeres Por Afrique

Incontinence often results in women experiencing extensive social stigma and related mental health issues, with these women either marginalized by households and communities, or marginalizing themselves. Such isolation and stigma acts to decrease their chances of seeking treatment. Women often feel unfit to live with the rest of their family members and isolate themselves or are isolated by their families and communities. In many cases, women with fistula are divorced by their husbands. Social exclusion and lack of recognition experienced by women during the time they suffer from fistula (varying from a few months to many years) leads to a diminished sense of self-worth.

Ending this harmful practice.

Women rights, health advocates and NGO’s like the UN Population Fund are working to prevent and treat fistula, and to rehabilitate and empower fistula survivors. So far UNFPA has supported more than 113,000 surgical repairs for women and girls since 2013, and partner agencies have supported thousands more. 

Other means to drastically reducing Obstetrics fistula includes; delaying the age of first pregnancy, the cessation of harmful traditional practices, and timely access to obstetric care among others.

Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.

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