10 facts on obstetric fistula

Updated January 2018

Each year between 50 000 to 100 000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula, an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum. 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 Sustainable Development Goal 3 of improving maternal health.


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