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What is Obstetric Fistula?

Obstetric fistulas result from prolonged, obstructed labor, typically in the absence of skilled birth attendants. During childbirth that can last several days to a week, delicate tissues inside the body between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum are destroyed. The injury leaves women incontinent and the stigma surrounding this condition in Ethiopia leads to humiliation and ostracization from the community.

How does obstetric fistula occur?

An obstetric fistula occurs during prolonged, obstructed childbirth, when a woman lacks access to emergency medical care. During this time, the mother's delicate tissues in the birth canal are destroyed while trying to give birth. In 93% of cases, the mother's extreme physical pain is paired with the psychological distress of losing her new baby. Internal injuries and pain continue to grow. Incontinence, nerve damage and weakened pelvic muscles sustained from this injury make many daily tasks unmanageable.

How does obstetric fistula impact a woman?

Although the condition is almost entirely preventable, obstetric fistula is still a huge public health issue. Without a local understanding of fistula and its causes, a woman is frequently blamed for her condition. Survivors are ostracized by the community and left voiceless and alone - cut off from family, economic opportunity and other avenues to leading a full, healthy and happy life.

Living with fistula

Can obstetric fistula be cured?

Yes. Obstetric fistula can be repaired with a single life-changing surgery performed by a skilled surgeon.Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is globally renowned for its obstetric fistula treatment technique. The women who receive this life-changing care are often too poor to pay. At Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, their treatment is offered free thanks to donors like you.

Can obstetric fistula be prevented?

In Western countries, like the United States and Canada, obstetric fistulas are virtually a thing of the past because there is access to effective maternal healthcare. In countries like Ethiopia, more than 70% of births take place without a doctor or nurse present and more than 3,000 fistulas occur each year. With proper maternal healthcare, a well-trained midwife and access to an emergency caesarean section, this horrific childbirth injury is entirely preventable. At the Hamlin College of Midwives, we welcome students from the rural areas of Ethiopia for training to identify pregnancy complications and prevent obstetric fistula in the first place.When they graduate, these students return to serve in their villages and are often the only healthcare workers for hundreds of miles.

Recovery at Hamlin

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Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is fiscally sponsored by KBF USA (EIN582277856) and KBF Canada (RCO769784893RR0001)