International Day to End Obstetric Fistula 2023
On May 23, is the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal that can develop when a woman experiences prolonged, obstructed labor without medical intervention. It is a devastating childbirth injury that can cause lifelong physical and social problems for women.
The International Day to End Obstetric Fistula aims to raise awareness about this preventable and treatable condition and to mobilize support for affected women. The day provides an opportunity to advocate for increased investment in maternal healthcare, access to quality obstetric care, and the eradication of obstetric fistula.
History of International Day to End Obstetric Fistula
The International Day to End Obstetric Fistula was first observed on May 23rd, 2013. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness about obstetric fistula and to promote actions towards its prevention, treatment, and eventual elimination.
The resolution to establish the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula was co-sponsored by more than 100 countries and received unanimous support from the UN General Assembly. The date of May 23rd was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the Campaign to End Fistula, which was launched in 2003 by the UNFPA and its partners.
About the Obstetric fistula
Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury that occurs when prolonged, obstructed labor without access to timely medical intervention causes a hole or tear between the birth canal and the rectum or bladder of a woman. It is primarily a consequence of inadequate healthcare services, particularly in low-resource settings.
Here are some key points about obstetric fistula:
- Prolonged, obstructed labor: When a woman experiences a prolonged and difficult labor, the pressure of the baby’s head can cause tissue damage, leading to a fistula.
- Lack of access to medical care: Inadequate access to skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric care, and cesarean sections can increase the risk of obstetric fistula.
- Poverty and social factors: Women living in poverty, with limited education and resources, are more likely to face challenges accessing proper maternal healthcare, increasing their vulnerability to obstetric fistula.
- Incontinence: The most common symptom of obstetric fistula is urinary and/or fecal incontinence. Women are unable to control the flow of urine and/or feces, leading to constant leakage.
- Physical discomfort and pain: Fistulas can cause irritation, infection, and inflammation in the affected areas, leading to pain and discomfort.
- Social and psychological impact: Women with obstetric fistula often face social isolation, stigma, and discrimination due to the offensive odor and the perception of uncleanliness associated with their condition. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and a diminished sense of self-worth.
Prevention and Treatment:
- Access to quality maternal healthcare: Ensuring women have access to skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetric care, and cesarean sections when needed can prevent obstetric fistula.
- Timely medical intervention: Prompt recognition and management of prolonged labor and obstructed labor are crucial in preventing fistulas.
- Surgical repair: Obstetric fistulas can often be surgically repaired through a procedure called fistula repair surgery. Surgeons close the hole or tear, restoring normal urinary and/or bowel function.
- Rehabilitation and support: Comprehensive care includes post-surgical rehabilitation, which involves physical therapy, counseling, and vocational training to help affected women reintegrate into society.
- The UNFPA-led Campaign to End Fistula has been instrumental in raising awareness, providing surgical services, training healthcare providers, and advocating for policy changes.
- International organizations, governments, and NGOs work together to strengthen healthcare systems, improve access to maternal healthcare, and eliminate obstetric fistula.
- The eradication of obstetric fistula requires a multi-faceted approach that includes improving healthcare infrastructure, ensuring universal access to quality maternal care, addressing socioeconomic factors, and empowering women through education and economic opportunities.