Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth leaving a woman with no or insufficient control over defecation and urination. It affects over 2 million women in developing countries, most of whom are shunned by their communities and have to endure social isolation, depression and deepening poverty.
Fistula is an injury that occurs during childbirth leaving a woman with a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. It is caused by prolonged labour without treatment such as a caesarean section.
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Types of Obstetric Fistula
Did you know that there are actually different types of obstetric fistula? The different types depend on the parts involved, and when the damage is severe, it is possible for a woman to have more than one type at the same time.
- Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF): This type of fistula occurs between the bladder and vagina.
- Vesicouterine fistula: Occurs between the bladder and uterus.
- Rectovaginal fistula (RVF): Occurs between the rectum and vagina.
- Urethrovaginal fistula (UVF): Between the urethra and vagina.
- Ureterovaginal fistula: Between the ureters and the vagina.
Obstetric Fistula Treatment
Treatment for obstetric fistula, which is done through surgery, aimed at improving the quality of life for women with the injury. The surgery does the following:
- Closes the hole surgically,
- Helps a woman achieve continence (having control over urination and defecation),
- Restores normal sexual life and fertility,
- Ensures safe delivery in the future, and
- Reintegrates the patient back into her community
Obstetric Fistula Treatment
In very rare cases, some women may experience complications after fistula repair. These may include:
- Bladder contracture
- Vaginal narrowing
- Obstruction of bladder drainage
- Obstruction of kidney drainage
- Sexual problems
However, these occur in very few fistula repair surgeries and therefore, women with fistula should ensure they find high quality medical treatment for their condition to reduce the risk of having any complications due to the surgery.
The truth about obstetric fistula is that it is preventable and treatable and every woman living with the injury should be able to get treatment or receive better care during childbirth to prevent the entire situation. Better health services are necessary to end unnecessary suffering of women during childbirth. Giving birth should bring happiness to every mother, not put them in a place where taking care of their children becomes a burden.
Apart from providing high quality medical services, the services should be accessible to all, even those in remote areas.
Early marriages should also be a thing of the past because young girls have an increased risk of suffering from fistula.
Every woman deserves the quality care and treatment during childbirth and, if it becomes necessary, when seeking obstetric fistula repair. On this International day to end obstetric fistula, share with your friends and family facts about the reality of this silent tragedy that leaves women suffering in silence.