Vagina Chronicles: Global Issue: Obstetric Fistula

Let’s discuss an issue that is affecting countless of women around the world: obstetric fistula.

Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged obstructed labour without prompt medical intervention of a Caesarean section (1). Due to the prolonged labor, women are often left with lifetime, chronic health issues and often times the child are still-born.

Across various impoverished areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab regions, young girls and women are suffering from obstetric fistula. This demographic, often powerless and without adequate medical services, have issues related to reproductive health and rights, gender equality, poverty, education, empowerment and adolescent reproductive health.

Like another issue afflicting women globally, obstetric fistula is very preventable. 

Family planning in those mentioned regions would allow couples to delay early births, space desired births, and limit family size. Up to one-third of all maternal deaths and injuries could have been prevented if women had access to contraception (3).


The partograph is a low-tech tool for preventing and managing prolonged or obstructed labor, designed to act as an “early warning system,” alerting doctors, midwives, and nurses to the need for action.

A timely Cesarean Section is critical for women with obstructed labor.

Treatment options:

Surgery repairs the fistula which causes constant, uncontrollable leakage of urine, feces or both- leaving a very unpleasant odor. This then causes isolation and depression. The average cost of fistula treatment and post-operative care is $600. Sadly for the women and their families affected, $600 is often times not even what they make for a year in pay. And because sexual or health education is not prevalent, they are unaware that this option is even available.





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