#FightFistula: 5 Facts You Should Know; Causes, signs, treatment

#FightFistula: 5 Facts You Should Know; Causes, signs, treatment

Yvonne Williams

Today marks the third anniversary of the fight against fistula – ‘International End Obstetric Fistula day’ and with a staggering estimated number of 2 million women and girls living with the dreaded disease, the campaign to end Fistula has no doubt become paramount within and in the international world. Here is an overview of Obstetric Fistula; signs, causes, prevention and treatment.

Obstetric fistula or vaginal fistula is one of the most complicated and tragic injuries caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without timely intervention – typically a Caesarean section to help relieve pressure. It is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum which leads to incontinence – the loss of bladder control – constant and uncontrolled flow of urine or feaces, or both.

Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Bahir Dar

Fistula has been defined by the World Health Organization as “the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth”. Fistula, although almost entirely preventable, is a battle which women from mostly underdeveloped countries where early marriages prevail, face. This is common in underdeveloped countries like Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where proper medical care is basically unaffordable complemented by certain archaic belief system which shun maternal care because women are meant to bare the pain to “prove their womanhood” as a result, sufferers are often subjected to stigmatization and therefore depression. If left untreated, fistula can lead to frequent ulcerations and infections, kidney disease and even death.

Causes of Fistula:
Prolonged labour
Sexual abuse/ rape
Poorly performed abortions
Episiotomy and forceps use during labour
Pelvic fracture, which results in difficult labour
Cervical cancer therapy with radiation
Trauma during vagina, perineum, anus or rectum surgery

Signs of fistula
Although painless, vaginal fistula or obstetric fistula results in uncontrollable passing of the urine or feaces.
Urine leakage from the vagina (vesicovaginal fistula)
Foul smelling discharge including gas (rectovaginal fistula)
Intense pain during sex
Amenorrhea/ absence of menstruation
Kidney damage
Infection and inflammation of the genital area resulting in irritation or pain
Severe ulcerations of the vaginal tract
Paralysis of the lower limbs caused by nerve damage.

Obstetrics Fistula treatment

This depends on the ability of the tissue to heal, the size and location of the fistula. However in most cases a vaginal surgery is highly advised.

Prevention tip

Family planning, consulting trusted medical practitioner during pregnancy and early marriage eradication.

General Health Tip

Ensure proper medical checkup pre, during and post pregnancy
Ensure proper and balanced meals during pregnancy
Consult trusted medical practitioner for recommended pelvic exercises
Maintain proper vagina health to prevent infections.

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