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Photograph of Fistula Patients

Preventing Fistula

Prevention is the ultimate solution to the problem of obstetric fistula.

While the direct cause of the condition is prolonged or obstructed labor, factors such as inequity, gender discrimination, and poorly functioning health care systems are among the root causes. Fistula disproportionately affects poor, less-educated, and rural women.

Most occurrences of obstetric fistula can be prevented if women receive quality obstetric care during childbirth and have timely access to cesarean section for prolonged and/or obstructed labor.

A woman’s education and socioeconomic status are among the most important determinants of maternal and newborn health and survival: Mortality levels decline as the mother’s education and household wealth increase. Not surprisingly, fistula is most prevalent in countries where maternal and newborn mortality rates are high.

Significant reduction of the incidence and prevalence of fistula requires multisectoral strategies and increased long-term investment in women and girls to improve their education and status. This means tackling deep-seated societal issues, such as maternal undernutrition, early marriage, and early childbearing, in addition to improving the quality and coverage of sexual and reproductive health services.

Acknowledging these factors, Fistula Care implemented a holistic approach to prevention, integrating family planning into fistula services, as well as engaging in both community-based and facility-based activities.

© 2013 EngenderHealth.

This resource was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of the cooperative agreement GHS-A-00-07-00021-00. The information provided on this resource is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the USAID or the U.S. Government.