About 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. For every woman who dies of maternal related causes, it is estimated that at least 20 women experience a maternal morbidity, one of the most severe forms of which is obstetric fistula.
Generally accepted estimates suggest that 2-3.5 million women live with obstetric fistula in the developing world, and between 50,000 and 100,000 new cases develop each year. All but eliminated from the developed world, obstetric fistula continues to affect the poorest of the poor: women and girls living in some of the most resource-starved remote regions in the world.
Obstetric fistula symptoms generally manifest in the early post-partum period. However, other, equally severe symptoms such as psychological trauma, deteriorating health, increasing poverty, and social stigmatization by family and friends can and often do occur.
Obstetric fistula can be prevented and in most cases treated. Reconstructive surgery with a trained, expert fistula surgeon can repair the injury, with success rates as high as 90 percent for less complex cases. The average cost of fistula treatment—including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support—is $300 per patient.
Obstetric fistula is preventable; it can largely be avoided by:
- delaying the age of first pregnancy;
- the cessation of harmful traditional practices; and
- timely access to obstetric care.
Preventing and managing obstetric fistula contribute to reaching the Millennium Development Goal 5 of improving maternal health.