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Swindon Soroptimists Ending Obstetric Fistula

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula 23 May

This week, Swindon Soroptimists have been talking about obstetric fistula as part of worldwide efforts for International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. It is a devastating childbirth injury, with life-changing effects, caused by prolonged, obstructed labour. And it is wholly preventable.

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What is Obstetric Fistula?

Obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment. It leaves women and girls leaking urine, faeces or both, and often leads to chronic medical problems, depression, social isolation and deepening poverty. Ninety percent of pregnancies involving fistula end in stillbirth.

United Nations International Day to End Fistula

Social Ostracism

During obstructed labour, the baby’s head is pressed against the mother’s pelvis, and the prolonged pressure over the course of days cuts off blood flow to the sections of tissue trapped between the baby’s head and her pelvic bone. Without adequate blood supply those sections of tissue die and fall away to leave holes —known as “fistulae” — between the mother’s vagina and rectum, leaving her incontinent.

Without surgery, she will uncontrollably leak urine, faeces, or sometimes both, for the rest of her life. Through no fault of her own, the constant leakage causes a constant odour of urine and/or faeces. In turn, this odour leads to humiliation and social ostracism, ruining her life further. Up to 95% of affected women could be treated by surgery, but it’s not available.

Obstetric fistula is almost unknown in high-income countries today, due to high-quality medical care in labour, but half a million women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab States region and Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to be living with fistula, and more cases develop every year.

Eradicating Fistula

It is a UN objective to make obstetric fistula equally rare all over the world, and we are now in the 21st year of the campaign. In the last two decades, UNFPA has supported 140,000 fistula repair surgeries and the UN has set a target to eradicate obstetric fistula by 2030

Learn more about the causes and impact of obstetric fistula through this interactive quiz hosted by Campaign to End Fistula.

Take the Quiz