The idea of being injured by childbirth may not be familiar. You may know about the pain felt during, and maybe after giving birth. But you probably do not think about the things that could happen if you are in labor and no help is around–no doctor, midwife, hospital, or clinic. Maybe you are young and scared and the baby will not come out.
Sadly, childbirth injuries are common in places where there is no easy access to healthcare. Rwanda is one of many places in the world where women can be seriously injured during childbirth. These injuries can include the common things seen with vaginal birth like vaginal tears, bleeding, and infections, or can include more devastating injuries, like fistula.
Fistula is the term used the to describe an abnormal connection between two body parts that should not be connected–like the bladder and vagina or the vagina and rectum. This can lead to leakage of urine or feces, which causes a terrible smell and makes it impossible to stay clean.
Women with childbirth-related fistula may be shunned by their family or forced to move out. With no income and no family, life is not good. A fictionalized story of a girl who develops a fistula was made into a movie, called Dry, which is available for a small fee on iTunes and Amazon.com. You can read about the movie here.
Surgery to repair fistula is not simple; surgeons who do these procedures require specialized training, beyond that of even a well-trained American gynecologist. Most African physicians do not have access to this training. The IOWD is working to bring trained surgeons to the area, both to operate on women in need and to train local surgeons. Until this surgery is more widely available, the IOWD will continue their work.