Among all maternal morbidities, obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating, write reproductive health experts in a Lancet commentary. The researchers call for more reliable data on its prevalence to boost prevention efforts in low-income countries.
Caused by injury during childbirth, the result is an abnormal opening between the vagina and the bladder or rectum—leading to continuous urinary or fecal incontinence. Affected women are often abandoned by their husbands and families, and ostracized by their communities.
The fact that obstetric fistula was virtually eliminated in Europe and the US between 1935-1950, shows the enormous gap in maternal health care between high-income and low-income nations, the experts write.