10 facts on obstetric fistula

March 2010

Three women waiting for surgery in Ethiopia
Yanina Manolova

Each year between 50 000 to 100 000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal. The development of obstetric fistula is directly linked to one of the major causes of maternal mortality: obstructed labour.

Women who experience obstetric fistula suffer constant incontinence, shame, social segregation and health problems. It is estimated that more than 2 million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Obstetric fistula is preventable; it can largely be avoided by:

  • delaying the age of first pregnancy;
  • the cessation of harmful traditional practices; and
  • timely access to obstetric care.

Preventing and managing obstetric fistula contribute to the Millennium Development Goal 5 of improving maternal health.

Read the fact file on obstetric fistula

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