Obstetric Fistula: Ending the silence, easing the suffering
Obstetric fistula--a devastating medical condition consisting of an abnormal opening between the vagina and the bladder or rectum--results from unrelieved obstructed labor: Unless the fetus is delivered surgically, prolonged obstructed labor often ends only when the fetus dies, decomposes, and is finally passed from the mother. In many cases the mother's injured pelvic tissue breaks down, leaving a hole, or fistula, between adjacent organs. Fistulas also can have nonobstetric causes, such as laceration or sexual trauma. Fistulas can have terrible social consequences: The physical consequences of a fistula--including the continuous leaking of urine, feces, or both--usually make a normal life difficult, if not impossible. Fistula patients are often shunned, abandoned, or divorced.