Obstetric Fistula: A Common Problem

A fistula is a hole between any internal organ and the outside that should not exist. Women in the poorest places of this world suffer from fistula because of unrelieved obstructed labor which leads to incontinence.

Obstetric fistulas are a common affliction of pregnant women in the developing world who deliver their babies often with no medical help. Most are young girls. After suffering many days of obstructed labor, the infant finally passes — dead. But this nightmare is only beginning. The internal pressure caused by the baby’s head pushing against the woman’s pelvis, results in a break-down of tissues that creates a hole between the birth passage and internal organs such as the bladder or rectum. The result is the woman’s inability to hold her urine or bowel contents, causing constant leaking, day and night.

The social consequences are equally devastating. The woman is often rejected by her partner and family because of wetness, foul smell and inability to bear more children. Employment is denied and many will live and die homeless.

Obstetrical fistula does not occur in the United States due to the availability of routine medical care and trained doctors, however millions of women in developing countries suffer from this devastating condition. Because physicians and surgeons in developing regions have little or no experience with, and are completely untrained in fistula repair, there is an the enormous backlog of cases. Sadly, most instances are left un-repaired.