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Obstetric Fistula in Developing Nations

There is a big health problem that affects many women in developing nations: obstetric fistula. A fistula is a hole in a woman's pelvic area which causes incontinence. It occurs after particularly difficult labors (sometimes these difficult labors result in stillbirths), especially when adequate healthcare is not available. The wall of the birth canal gets compressed by the babyís head during labor and the pressure causes blood to stop flowing, resulting in dead tissue. The tissue falls away and a hole, or fistula, is then formed.

Young women who arenít ready for childbirth are particularly prone to developing fistulas, but they can happen to any woman under the right conditions. Fistulas can interfere in womenís lives in many devastating ways. Aside from the continual incontinence, fistula sufferers can also experience skin infections, kidney disorders, and even death if they do not receive proper medical attention. Many women experience social isolation as a result of both obstetric fistula and oftentimes the loss of the baby. Shamed and shunned by their families, these women sometimes have no choice but to leave their homes and try to make their own way in the world.

Fistulae are both treatable and preventable. They can be prevented by delaying the age of the mother when giving birth to her first child, and receiving quality and timely obstetric care. Itís also helpful to teach people about family planning (including spacing out when to have each child), and promote proper hygiene during pregnancy. Fistulae can usually be treated by a simple surgery that closes up the hole. Sometimes, mental health treatment is also recommended for women who have dealt with a lot of psychological trauma due to obstetric fistula.

By this point in the article, you may be thinking to yourself, ďThis is all interesting information, but what can I do to help?Ē There are several foundations dedicated to treating fistulae or educating people on proper maternal care. A simple web search can help you find these charities that you can then donate to. A simple donation can do a lot of good for a woman in need. As always, do your research and be sure that the charity you are interested in is legitimate before you donate anything!

Another way you can help is by spreading awareness of the problem. Teaching others or even encouraging others to get involved may be one of the best things you can do to help women in developing nations with fistulae. Your friends may have connections or resources you didnít realize they had that could do a lot of good.

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