What is an obstetric fistula?

Frederick Friedman, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
A fistula is an abnormal connection or pathway between two separate structures. In obstetrics, this usually involves the rectum and the vagina (rectovaginal fistula) or the bladder and the vagina (vesicovaginal fistula.) Worldwide, the most common risk factor is a prolonged or obstructed labor. This is often seen in developing countries where ready access to Obstetric care is unavailable. However, these tracts may also develop following sub-optimal healing or repair after extensive lacerations from a vaginal delivery (or even after a complicated cesarean section.)

Obstetric fistula is an unusual development of an opening between the vagina and bladder (vesicovaginal fistula), vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula), or both. The medical condition develops due to difficulty during childbirth. When this occurs, urine or stool from the rectum constantly seeps out from the fistula opening through the vagina resulting in pain, irritation, and a foul-smelling odor. You may also pass gas through your vagina as a result of the fistula opening.

Obstetric fistula occurs mainly in pregnant women residing in countries where medical care is often neglected. Many of these women develop the medical condition due to the pregnant mother remaining in labor for too long. The mother does not receive timely medical help required, such as a caesarean section, to prevent the opening from occurring.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.