Fistula - The Facts

What is an obstetric fistula?

Fistula is caused by baby pushing, causing lack of supply of blood

A fistula happens when the baby's head puts too much pressure on the mother's maternal tissues, cutting the supply of blood. The tissue dies and leaves a hole, or fistula, which causes urine and faeces to leak uncontrollably.

The horror of fistula was virtually eliminated from our society more than a century ago.

But in the poorest countries more than 2 million untreated young women and girls still suffer in shame and isolation. Doctors delicately repair the fistula through surgery, and bring new life to these beautiful young women.

Fistula Facts

  • The main causes of fistula are extreme poverty and the low status of women and girls. In developing countries, the poverty and malnutrition in children contributes to stunting, where the female skeleton - including the pelvis - doesn't fully mature. This stunted condition can lead to birthing difficulties, and therefore fistula.
  • The World Health Organisation estimates about 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have fistula.
  • 9 out of 10 women who seek treatment for fistula are completely healed.
  • The prevention and treatment of fistula is part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to improve maternal health.
  • Every minute, 30 women are injured or disabled by birthing injuries.