What is Obstetric Fistula?
Obstetric fistula is a debilitating childbirth injury, a hole between a woman's vagina and bladder and/or rectum caused most often by prolonged obstructed labor, without access to high-quality obstetric care.
Women with fistula leak urine and sometimes feces uncontrollably. Because of the odor caused by the continuous leaking, women with fistula often face stigma, shaming, social isolation, and high rates of divorce and abandonment.
Surgery is the primary treatment for obstetric fistula. With qualified surgical care, success rates for treatment are high: 80% to 90%.
“After my fistula, my husband, who was responsible for the pregnancy, disliked me and took another wife. He told me he could no longer stay with a woman who’s so stenchy like me. I lost all hope and the only thing I could do was cry and cry. My relatives now all hated me, they said they could not even sit in my home.”
— Fistula survivor
Fistulas are most common among women in poor, rural communities, who are under-educated about their sexual and reproductive rights and have limited access to high-quality obstetric care.
Child marriage and early pregnancy, both prevalent in Uganda, place girls and young women at higher risk for fistula, as their bodies are not fully developed.
Obstetric fistulas are both treatable and preventable, and therefore, rarely seen in high-income nations. The prevalence of fistulas in Uganda and other developing countries clearly indicates that reproductive healthcare systems are failing to meet the needs of childbearing women.