Social Experiences of Women with Obstetric Fistula Seeking Treatment in Kampala, Uganda

Marielle Meurice*, Rene Genadry, Carol Heimer, Galya Ruffer, Barageine Justus Kafunjo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Obstetric fistula is a preventable and treatable condition predominately affecting women in low-income countries. Understanding the social context of obstetric fistula may lead to improved prevention and treatment. Objectives This study investigated social experiences of women with obstetric fistula seeking treatment at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. Methods A descriptive study was conducted among women seeking treatment for obstetric fistula during a surgical camp in July 2011 using a structured questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were computed regarding sociodemographics, obstetric history, and social experience. Findings Fifty-three women participated; 39 (73.58%) leaked urine only. Median age was 29 years (range: 17-58), and most were married or separated. About half (28, 47.9%) experienced a change in their relationship since acquiring obstetric fistula. More than half (27, 50.94%) acquired obstetric fistula during their first delivery, despite almost everyone (50, 94.3%) receiving antenatal care. The median years suffering from obstetric fistula was 1.25. Nearly every participant's social participation changed in at least one setting (51, 96.23%). Most women thought that a baby being too big or having kicked their bladder was the cause of obstetric fistula. Other participants thought health care providers caused the fistula (15, 32.61%; n = 46), with 8 specifying that the bladder was cut during the operation (cesarean section). Knowing someone with obstetric fistula was influential in pursuing treatment. The majority of participants planned to return to family (40, 78.43%; n = 51) and get pregnant after repair (35, 66.04%; n = 53). Conclusion Study participants experienced substantial changes in their social lives as a result of obstetric fistula, and there were a variety of beliefs regarding the cause. The complex social context is an important component to understanding how to prevent and treat obstetric fistula. Further elucidation of these factors may bolster current efforts in prevention and holistic treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-549
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of global health
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Genitourinary fistula
  • Maternal health
  • Obstetric fistula
  • Obstructed labor
  • Social experience
  • Uganda

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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