What Is Obstetric Fistula?The World Health Organization has called fistula "the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth", estimating that more than 2 million women live with fistula worldwide. But, it fears even this number may be a gross underestimate.
Short of death, the most devastating effect of neglected childbirth is obstetric fistula, a hole that forms between the vagina and the bladder or rectum during prolonged, obstructed labor. This horrific injury leaves victims incontinent. Some develop nerve damage in the feet and legs.
The Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia has treated more than 32,000 women with obstetric Fistula. Learn more about obstetric fistula or the work of the Fistula Hospital.
What Happens to Women Afflicted with Obstetric Fistula?If the misery of uncontrolled leaking of urine (and sometimes feces) isn't enough, these women and girls are ostracized and disdained by their families and communities. Without being cured, women with fistula commonly spend the remaining years of their lives in shame and isolation, literally waiting to die.
How Is Obstetric Fistula Treated?Obstetric fistula is almost entirely preventable. Women in the affected regions worldwide must gain access to doctors and medical facilities that can intervene when complications occur. Those who do not have access during childbirth must have ways to seek treatment, which is usually a surgical procedure.
Who Is Most Vulnerable to Obstetric Fistula?Eradicated in developed countries at the end of the 19th century when cesarean section became widely available, obstetric fistula still plagues women throughout the developing world, specifically in parts of Africa, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal. It is estimated that there are 100,000 new cases each year, but the international capacity to treat obstetric fistula is limited to only 6,500 per year.
- For every woman who dies from pregnancy-related complications, 20 women survive but experience terrible injuries and disabilities.
- In Ethiopia, there are 59 OB/GYNs and 1,000 midwives for a population of 77 million.
- One woman dies from pregnancy-related complications every minute worldwide; 95% of them live in Africa and Asia.
- More than 99% of The Fistula Hospital patients are illiterate. (The hospital teaches all patients the Amharic Fideles and the Oromiyffa alphabets.)
- Number of patients treated at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital every year: 1,200
- Number of obstetric fistula cases occurring in Ethiopia alone each year: 9,000
- Number of new obstetric fistula cases resulting from childbirth occurring worldwide each year: 100,000
- Number of new obstetric fistula cases resulting from childbirth occurring in the U.S. each year: 0
- The year the last U.S. hospital treating fistula patients closed its doors: 1895.