Obstretric Fistula – A Condition That Can Rob Women Of Their Dignity And Status

For the greater part of women, child birth brings so much joy, an unexplainable happiness that can never be equaled to anything in the world. However, for some it’s the beginning of anguish, shame and societal shun. On average normal labour lasts up to 8 hours, however some women have come forward stating their labour lasted for days. This is a major cause of concern as prolonged labour might result in a medical condition known as Obstetric Fistula.

Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during child birth. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman with insufficient control of urination or defecation or both. For women with obstructed labor (labor that goes unattended), the labor can last up to six or seven days. The labor produces contractions that push the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvic bone. The soft tissues between the baby’s head and the pelvic bone are compressed and do not receive adequate blood flow. The lack of blood flow causes this delicate tissue to die and when it dies, holes are created between the laboring mother’s bladder and vagina and/or between the rectum and vagina. This is what produces incontinence in a fistula patient.

According to UNFPA, obstetric fistula affects over 2 million women and girls worldwide and between 50 000 and 100 000 new cases develop each year. Although the actual burden is not known in Zimbabwe, a survey conducted by UNFPA showed that at least 1000 women with the condition were seen at the Chinhoyi provincial hospital. According to reproductive health specialist Dr. Edwin Mpeta, no prevalent survey had been conducted in the country to establish the extent of the condition among women as some cases go unreported.

Often times we hear how this condition can rob women of their dignity and status in society, rob them of their source of livelihoods by forcing them to be confined to the back of their homes and leave them ostracised and humiliated. There are organizations such as Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA), UNFPA’s technical partner in the Campaign to End Fistula which has repaired over 500 women to date through five repair camps at the country´s Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital. This is under the Health Development Fund which is supported by the governments of Britain, Ireland, Sweden and the European Union. Let us support those in need of this treatment.

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