23 May is International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

Today is International Day to End Obstetric Fistula.

The United Nations page on Obstetric fistula states that it is “one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth”, as it is easily preventable and is not extremely costly to treat, but is still common.

Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury and occurs when a hole forms between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum due to prolonged, obstructed labour without treatment. The Fistula Foundation has found that more than 75% of women with obstetric fistula have endured labour which lasted three days or more. It has long-lasting effects on women’s health and social standing, as it leaves most women incontinent, which results in women often being shunned from their communities. This in turn affects their mental health, social status and can affect economic prospects, leading to deepened poverty. In addition to this, the WHO states that most fistulae occur in women living in poverty cultures where a women’s status and self-esteem may depend on her marriage and ability to bear children.

The UN estimates that 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are living with this injury, and the World Health Organstion states that around 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop worldwide each year. Fistula is preventable, and is only common as a result of health systems failing to meet the needs of women. It can be prevented by delaying the age of first pregnancy, by ceasing to perform harmful traditional practices and by ensuring that pregnant women have access to efficient and quality obstetric care.

Treatment and repair of obstetric fistula has an 80-95% success rate, and is achieved through reconstructive surgery by a fistula surgeon.


While you’re here, we’d like to ask you to be a part of the call to ensure that people who menstruate have access to the goods and services they need to manage their menstrual health. Sign the petition to make sanitary wear free for all people who need it!