Have You Heard About Obstetric Fistula During Childbirth?

Editorial Team

The Fistula Foundation Nigeria said no fewer than 1.2 million women and girls were suffering from Obstetric Fistula (VVF) in Nigeria. Malam Musa Isa, the Founder and Executive Director of the foundation explained that obstetric fistula is a devastating condition brought about by child birth injury caused when a woman surfers a prolonged or difficult labour, without obtaining the right medical attention.

The executive director added that the baby usually dies and the woman is left not only without her child but also with a hole or fistula in her birth canal, resulting in chronic incontinence.

It is estimated that there are between 400,000 women and 800,000 girls suffering from this condition in Nigeria and the vast majority are in the norther part of the country, including Jigawa.

“We recognize this as a major problem and has planned to work with Jigawa state government through the ministries of health and women affairs to improve the lives of women affected by this condition,” he said.

Recalling her experience, a secondary school girl said she dropped out of school at the age of 15 years to become a housewife due to health situation arising from Vesico-Vaginal Fistula.

"I was in labour for 24 hours before I was taken to a general hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital was on strike and there was no one to attend to me.

"After a day in the hospital, a nurse decided to assist me, but sadly, I have a stillbirth and when I realised I was incontinent of urine, I felt terrible and was confused.

"I was later referred to a specialist hospital where I was treated with support from UNFPA but then, my dream of becoming a medical doctor had been shattered by early marriage," the teenager said.

Obstetric Fistula is usually cause by either prolonged labor where prolonged pressure of the fetus compresses the mother’s soft tissue against her pelvic bones, cutting off blood supply. The tissue separating the urinary tract or rectum from the vagina is destroyed leaving a hole that uncontrollably leaks urine or feces through her vagina.

The people that are most affected are a teenage mother with an underdeveloped pelvis may have difficulty delivering a full term baby through her birth canal. Women in rural areas who have very limited or no access to health care during pregnancy and delivery.

 Women who get fistula in their first pregnancy, 70% end up with no living children, over 90% of babies from an obstructed labor are stillborn. The woman usually ends up leaking urine or feces from her vagina. 

Women suffering from fistula are typically rejected by their husbands, shunned by their community and forced to live in isolation due to lack of knowledge. 

Women who suffer from obstetric fistula are usually required to have surgery to repair the damage. Physical therapy is needed to improve range of motion and avoid re-opening the fistula, counseling and rehabilitation is usually required also. After a successful fistula repair surgery, a woman may still give birth, although c-sections are recommended to prevent re-opening the fistula.

The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Health, has dispatched immediate directive to all teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centre in the country, to wave off payment of surgery and laboratory fees for all fistula clients who present for treatment at the tertiary hospitals.