OBJECTIVE: To synthesise the evidence on pregnancy and childbirth after repair of obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa and to identify the existing knowledge gaps.
METHODS: A scoping review of studies reporting on pregnancy and childbirth in women who underwent repair for obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa was conducted. We searched relevant articles published between 1 January 1970 and 31 March 2016, without methodological or language restrictions, in electronic databases, general Internet sources and grey literature.
RESULTS: A total of 16 studies were included in the narrative synthesis. The findings indicate that many women in sub-Saharan Africa still desire to become pregnant after the repair of their obstetric fistula. The overall proportion of pregnancies after repair estimated in 11 studies was 17.4% (ranging from 2.5% to 40%). Among the 459 deliveries for which the mode of delivery was reported, 208 women (45.3%) delivered by elective caesarean section (CS), 176 women (38.4%) by emergency CS and 75 women (16.3%) by vaginal delivery. Recurrence of fistula was a common maternal complication in included studies while abortions/miscarriage, stillbirths and neonatal deaths were frequent foetal consequences. Vaginal delivery and emergency C-section were associated with increased risk of stillbirth, recurrence of the fistula or even maternal death.
CONCLUSION: Women who get pregnant after repair of obstetric fistula carry a high risk for pregnancy complications. However, the current evidence does not provide precise estimates of the incidence of pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes post-repair. Therefore, studies clearly assessing these outcomes with the appropriate study designs are needed.