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December 06, 2010

More Training Needed for Doctors to Treat Childbirth Disorder

by Ricci Shryock

Surgeons have gathered in Dakar this week to discuss the best methods to fight fistula, which afflicts more than two million women throughout the world.

Surgeons and health workers from around the world are gathered in Dakar, Senegal this week to discuss the prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula.

This type of fistula, which usually occurs during childbirth, results in a hole in the birth canal. According to the World Health Organization, between 50,000 and 100,000 women worldwide are affected by fistula each year.

Fistula usually develops when a prolonged labor presses the unborn child so tightly in the birth canal that blood flow is cut off and tissue dies, creating a hole. More rarely, the injury can be caused by female genetic cutting or poorly performed abortions.

Doctor Issa Labou, a surgeon based in Senegal who is attending the conference, says there are not enough surgeons who know how to prevent and treat the condition.

Labou added that one goal of the conference is to continue the development of a curriculum that The International Society of Fistula Surgeons could put in place in centers throughout Africa. Then surgeons could come to these centers to receive training on how to treat fistula.

The consequences of fistula are often devastating for the women who suffer from them. The women experience constant incontinence, which often leads to exclusion from the community and their families, Labou said.

The doctor added that 90 percent of women who suffer from fistula also lose their babies during birth. This combination of mourning and physical suffering is one reason he says it is important that they train more doctors to treat the affliction.