A fistula is as an abnormal connection between two epithelial surfaces in your body. There are different types of fistula but today, let’s talk about the fistula that occurs as a result of complications surrounding childbirth.
In obstetric fistula, an abnormal connection occurs between the birth canal or vagina and the bladder or rectum. In some cases, there can be a connection between the vagina and rectum, also called rectovaginal fistula or RVF, which will present with faeces constantly coming out from the vagina. It could be between the vagina and bladder, also called vesicovaginal fistula or VVF, where patient constantly leaks urine. It could also be both where there is an abnormal connection between the vagina and the bladder and rectum where patient has both faeces and urine coming out of the vagina.
Obstetric fistula occurs when a woman goes through prolonged, obstructed labour with poor access to quality and timely healthcare. According to data from the United Nations Population Fund, about 50,000-100,000 women sustain obstetric fistula each year and Nigeria account for 40% of obstetric fistula cases worldwide.
Obstetric fistula, although completely preventable, is caused by a number of factors – one is when very young females have babies. Because their pelvis is too small and is not fully developed, they are prone to having prolonged and obstructed labour, and because they lack access to adequate medical care, they will come down with complications such as obstetric fistula.
Even though Nigeria has passed the child rights act in 2003, 12 northern states are yet to domesticate the act. The consequences of obstetric fistula are enormous. Aside from the infection, it also has an adverse effects on their mental health, especially since most of these girls are usually abandoned by their spouses and loved ones.
Obstetric fistula can be prevented by delaying the age of first pregnancy, cessation of harmful traditional practices and provision of timely and adequate medical care. Although it’s highly preventable, obstetric fistula is still prevalent in our society today, and this is one of the many reasons we must collectively work towards ending child marriage in our society.
It will take a village to stop this menace.