Author(s): Wall LL, Wall LL, Wall LL, Wall LL
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Abstract An obstetric fistula is classically regarded as an "accident of childbirth" in which prolonged obstructed labor leads to destruction of the vesicovaginal/rectovaginal septum with consequent loss of urinary and/or fecal control. Obstetric fistula is highly stigmatizing and afflicted women often become social outcasts. Although obstetric fistula has been eliminated from advanced industrialized nations, it remains a major public health problem in the world's poorest countries. Several million cases of obstetric fistula are currently thought to exist in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Although techniques for the surgical repair of such injuries are well known, it is less clear which strategies effectively prevent fistulas, largely because of the complex interactions among medical, social, economic, and environmental factors present in those countries where fistulas are prevalent. This article uses the Haddon matrix, a standard tool for injury analysis, to examine the factors influencing obstetric fistula formation in low-resource countries. Construction of a Haddon matrix provides a "wide angle" overview of this tragic clinical problem. The resulting analysis suggests that the most effective short-term strategies for obstetric fistula prevention will involve enhanced surveillance of labor, improved access to emergency obstetric services (particularly cesarean delivery), competent medical care for women both during and after obstructed labor, and the development of specialist fistula centers to treat injured women where fistula prevalence is high. The long-term strategies to eradicate obstetric fistula must include universal access to emergency obstetric care, improved access to family planning services, increased education for girls and women, community economic development, and enhanced gender equity. Successful eradication of the obstetric fistula will require the mobilization of sufficient political will at both the international and individual country levels to ensure that adequate resources are devoted to this problem and that maternal health becomes a high priority on national political agendas. TARGET AUDIENCE: Obstetricians & Gynecologists and Family Physicians. LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After participating in this CME activity, physicians should be better able to apply the Haddon matrix, a tool commonly used for injury analysis, to the field of obstetrics and gynecology; analyze the problem of obstructed labor and obstetric fistula formation in low-resource countries using the Haddon matrix, and implement possible strategies for the prevention of obstetric fistulas and the mitigation of harm in cases of obstructed labor that arise from the use of the Haddon matrix.
This article was published in Obstet Gynecol Surv
and referenced in Journal of Biometrics & Biostatistics