10 facts on obstetric fistula

Updated May 2014

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 10 facts on obstetric fistula

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