Obstetric Fistula: The Debilitating Problem You've Never Heard Before
Obstetric fistulas are, thankfully, extremely rare. However, when they do occur, a woman will understandably want to know why it happened, if anything could have been done to prevent it, and if any further action can be taken.
An obstetric fistula is when a hole develops between the rectum and the vagina (called a rectovaginal fistula) or between the bladder and the vagina (called a vesicovaginal fistula). The condition can arise due to some reasons, although it most frequently occurs because of a long and difficult labor.
Causes of Obstetric Fistula
During childbirth, the weight of the unborn baby puts pressure on the birth canal, sometimes cutting off the blood supply to the surrounding tissue. If the tissue goes too long without blood (and therefore without oxygen) it will begin to die - known medically as becoming "necrotic". Once the tissue is necrotic, it will start to rot away and leave an opening - either between the rectum and the vagina, or the bladder and the vagina.
Effects Of Obstetric Fistula
This condition causes a woman to then uncontrollably leak urine and/or and feces. The misery is endless, and the smell can be overpowering and the cleaning constant. Husbands often leave, family and neighbors ostracize the women and a life of intense isolation and hardship ensues. Early marriage and poverty cut off many life opportunities for these women, including access to education, meaning that they later have little, if anything, to fall back upon regarding economic independence.
Treating An Obstetric Fistula
Obstetric fistulas can be treated, although it does require attention from surgeons who specialize in this procedure. A patient will be put under general anesthetic, and reconstructive intravaginal surgery is performed to close the fistula. If carried out with due skill and attention, a patient has a good chance of making a full recovery. It is also likely a patient will be able to regain control over their bodily functions once more.
If left untreated, however, obstetric fistulas can have serious consequences. Recurring infections may lead to kidney disease or even kidney failure, nerve damage and emotional/psychological problems.
Period panties can help with many of the effects of obsteric fistula. They are designed to help lock in moisture and odors and are easy to clean. Period panties can help one who can't afford to get reconstructive surgery help better manage the condition by giving one a more sanitary alternative over regular panties.
Preventing An Obstetric Fistula
Obstetric fistulas can widely be prevented as long as a woman has access to good obstetric care. Thus fistulas usually only occur in developing countries, where poverty is rife and trained health professionals are lacking. When a woman is suffering from a prolonged labor, a competent obstetric team will be able to manage her condition, ensuring the well-being of both mother and child are taken care of. In some circumstances, a traumatic labor may result in an emergency caesarean.