coinoperated (coinoperated) wrote in feministvoice,

Obstetric fistula

I'm ashamed to say that I've never even heard of this condition. Part of the message of this piece for me was the differences between the life experiences of women in the 'developed' world and those in the 'developing' world, and the unjustness of this.
Each year, 100,000 women who give birth in poor countries develop a devastating condition which leaves them incontinent and ostracised.

Obstetric fistula, a hole linking the vagina with the bladder or rectum, occurs when women - often in their early teens - are in labour for days.

Campaigners at a global conference on maternal health in London this week, entitled Women Deliver, have emphasised that a simple and cheap operation can cure it.

The BBC News website speaks to two survivors about how surgery has transformed their lives.
Link to the BBC article, which includes the accounts from two survivors and further links to organisations working in this area.

The first survivor:
Three days after the birth I realised that I could not hold in my urine. I was told to be patient but the leaking carried on for six days. They told me to go home and come back in two months.

We didn't tell my husband, we told him that I was ill and I went back to stay with my parents. We tried to hide it from everyone.

They thought I was cursed. I didn't want anyone in the village to know. I felt very isolated.

After two months we returned to Niamey to a non-governmental organisation which helped me.

I had one operation and I was healed. I was delighted. Before, I was always crying but afterwards it was like I was reborn. Only now that I am healed does my husband know what happened to me.

And the second:
I was raped at the age of 19. The rape left me pregnant and I developed obstetric fistula during the birth.

I was in labour for more than 18 hours. I'm an orphan so I was taken to the health care centre by my aunt. But once there I was left alone, nobody cared. I didn't understand what was happening.

After three days, I realised that I was always wet. I was told that I had a fistula problem. I never really understood what this meant.

I was told that I could seek further medical assistance but I'm an orphan, I simply didn't have the financial means. So I just went home.

It was such a difficult time for me, I suffered rejection, isolation, discrimination. I felt I didn't have a place in my society.

My friends didn't understand what had happened. It made me lose hope in life, I saw no reason to live. I couldn't see my friends and go out with other people my own age.

(Cross-posted to relevant communities.)
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