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


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


Marielle Meurice ,

University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA
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Rene Genadry,

Department of OB/GYN, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA
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Carol Heimer,

Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
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Galya Ruffer,

Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
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Barageine Justus Kafunjo

Department of OB/GYN, Makerere University/Mulago National Referral and Teaching Hospital, Kampala, Uganda; Department of Women's Health–Save the Mothers, Uganda Christian University, Mukono, Uganda
About Barageine Justus
MBChB, MMed, PhD
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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.


This study investigated social experiences of women with obstetric fistula seeking treatment at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda.


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.


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).


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.
How to Cite: Meurice, M., Genadry, R., Heimer, C., Ruffer, G. and Kafunjo, B.J., 2017. Social Experiences of Women with Obstetric Fistula Seeking Treatment in Kampala, Uganda. Annals of Global Health, 83(3-4), pp.541–549. DOI:
Published on 04 Aug 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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