Highlighting Obstetric Fistulas

Hadiza Soulaye is a young woman from Niger who shared her experience with an obstetric fistula with the New York Times2. She was married off by her parents before she even began her menstrual cycle. Soon she was pregnant. Her labor was obstructed and lasted three days. By the time she was able to get to a center for a C-Section she lost the baby and had a fistula causing her to leak urine. Hadiza’s husband threw her out of the house. She heard about the Danja Fistula Center and journeyed there to get a repair. The medical professionals repaired the fistula and she was educated on the recovery process. However, Hadiza’s husband quickly discovered she was no longer leaking urine and took her back. What choice did this young girl have? He tore open the repair and again expelled her from the home. Hadiza returned for a second repair and vowed not to return to her husband again. 

Fistulas are abnormal passages or tunnels that form in the body. Obstetric fistulas occur between the vaginal canal and rectum, the vaginal canal and urinary system, or both. These obstetric fistulas are a result of prolonged and difficult labor which can lead to incontinence of urine and/ or fecal matter. The prevalence of obstetric fistulas has decreased in more developed countries, however, they still greatly impact women in developing nations. 

The impact for these women is wide ranging. It alters a woman’s acceptance in her community, with her family, and ultimately challenges her mental wellbeing. For women with obstetric fistulas this condition can be debilitating and isolating without proper treatment. The average surgical cost to treat a fistula is $5681. For every one woman who receives medical intervention for her fistula, 50 more women are untreated1.

References:
1. Fistula Foundation. Help Give a Woman New Life. https://www.fistulafoundation.org/what-is-fistula/#. Published 2018. Accessed May 19, 2018.
2. Kristof N. Opinion | Where Young Women Find Healing and Hope. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/opinion/sunday/kristof-where-young-women-find-healing-and-hope.html. Published July 13, 2013. Accessed May 25, 2018.