Fabric of Africa

The women of  Africa

Obstetric Fistula

Addressing obstetric fistula in Tanzania

Obstetric fistula is an injury of childbearing that has been relatively neglected, despite the devastating impact it has on the lives of girls and women. It is usually caused by several days of obstructed labor, without timely medical intervention – typically a Caesarean section – to relieve the pressure. It remains a major cause of maternal death in Sub-Sahara Africa, where risk factors are prevalent. ¹

Pilot study conducted

Making obstetric care available to pregnant women in rural and under-served areas is an important first step, screening women at risk for prolonged labor is another.


We’re partnering with the non-profit organization One by One to help prevent obstetric fistula in Tanzania. A pilot study was completed in early 2012 and involved 132 women presenting with obstetric fistula and 264 women having had normal vaginal deliveries as controls to determine the best use of appropriate ultrasound technology for referral thereby decreasing maternal and infant mortality.


Promising results

Initial clinical data suggests that a simple, non-invasive tool such as obstetrical ultrasound could be vital for timely risk stratification and care coordination.


Other initiatives such as delaying age of first pregnancy through education of girls and women empowerment, providing family planning, and improving health systems to provide access to obstetric care, are part of this effort.

1. Tebeu PM, Fomulu JN, Khaddaj S, et al. Risk factors for obstetric fistula: a clinical review. Int Urogynecol J 201223:387-94.


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