Posted on May 21, 2017

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is today recognizing the ‘International Day to End Obstetric Fistula’ to lend its voice to the United Nations’ (UN) campaign. An obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labor.

23 May is the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, which promotes action towards treating and preventing the condition. Obstetric fistula affects many women in developing countries and the campaign aims to reduce the incidence of this condition as well as the ongoing tragedy of maternal death and injury due to preventable medical conditions.

The UN says an estimated two million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are living with obstetric fistula, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year. The UN adds that most obstetric fistulas occur among women living in poverty and in cultures where a woman’s status and self-esteem may depend almost entirely on her marriage and ability to bear children. “Obstetric fistula still exists because healthcare systems, especially in developing countries, fail to provide accessible, quality maternal healthcare, including skilled care at birth, basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care, and affordable treatment of obstetric fistula,” the world body notes.

HMC’s Women’s Hospital has the expertise to care for women who suffer from fistula. The hospital, which plays a major role in improving women’s health and well-being in Qatar, provides a range of specialties and treatments covering a broad spectrum of women’s health issues. The hospital has a large gynecology and obstetrics service, specialized clinical care, day surgery, antenatal, neonatal intensive care and newborn screening services. The hospital is responsible for the vast majority of births in Qatar – more than 17,000 each year.

“Fistula occurs in women with an obstructed labor that goes unattended and can last up to six or seven days. The labor produces contractions that push the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvic bone. The soft tissue between the baby’s head and the pelvic bone is compressed and does not receive adequate blood flow,” said Dr. Ayman Elnaqa, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Women’s Hospital. He explained that women who experience this preventable condition can experience urinary or fecal incontinence or both which often leads to embarrassment in addition to a variety of health issues and in extreme cases, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening complications.

The UN describes obstetric fistula as one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth. The condition typically leaves women incontinent, and as a result, they are often shunned by their communities. Sufferers often endure depression, social isolation, and deepening poverty. Many women live with the condition for years – or even decades – because they cannot afford, nor have access to, treatment. “Patients with uncomplicated obstetric fistulas can undergo a surgery to repair their fistula. Approximately 80 to 95 percent of these cases can be treated surgically. However, the most effective way to prevent obstetric fistula is to increase access to quality maternal healthcare services,” Dr. Elnaqa added.