Obstetric fistula is a devastating pregnancy-related disability that primarily affects young women from poor backgrounds. Fistula is usually the result of obstructed labour which means the baby does not exit the pelvis during childbirth due to being physically blocked. However, fistula is a preventable and mostly treatable condition.
Obstructed labour combined with a lack of skilled medical care and unaffordable caesarean sections, obstetric fistula most often leads to permanent incontinence – a continuous leakage of urine and loss of control over bowel movements.
A vaginal fistula, which usually affects pregnant women, results from prolonged labour, usually lasting two to five days, with delivery happening only after the baby dies.
During labour, the baby’s head and the woman’s pubic bone form a vice, cutting off blood flow to the tissue trapped in this area. Following delivery, the dead tissue sloughs away, leaving an abnormal opening between the birth canal and the bladder (less frequently the rectum).
Unable to control the flow of urine (and/or faeces), the woman is perpetually wet and soiled. Affected women are often abandoned by their husbands and ostracised by their families and communities.
– The Dress Ceremony restores dignity beyond surgery. Women afflicted by obstetric fistula are often outcasts from their own homes, their relationships lost, their clothes soiled. We send them back with a celebration and a new dress, symbolizing their newfound wholeness and a brighter outlook to the future.
In addition to performing free fistula repair operations for affected women, Mercy Ships provides Training & Prevention To help build the capacity of healthcare systems in developing nations to address the condition of fistula. Mercy Ships networks with and provides training for local & international healthcare professionals including surgeons, nurses and traditional birth attendants.