Risk factors for obstetric fistula: a clinical review

PM Tebeu, JN Fomulu, S Khaddaj, L de Bernis, T Delvaux, CH Rochat

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Obstetric fistula is the presence of a hole between a woman's genital tract and either the urinary or the intestinal tract. Better knowledge of the risk factors for obstetric fistula could help in preventing its occurrence. The purpose of this study was to assess the characteristics of obstetric fistula patients. We conducted a search of the literature to identify all relevant articles published during the period from 1987-2008. Among the 19 selected studies, 15 were reports from sub-Saharan Africa and 4 from the Middle East. Among the reported fistula cases, 79.4% to 100% were obstetrical while the remaining cases were from other causes. Rectovaginal fistulae accounted for 1% to 8%, vesicovaginal fistulae for 79% to 100% of cases, and combined vesicovaginal and rectovaginal fistulae were reported in 1% to 23% of cases. Teenagers accounted for 8.9% to 86% of the obstetrical fistulae patients at the time of treatment. Thirty-one to 67% of these women were primiparas. Among the obstetric fistula patients, 57.6% to 94.8% of women labor at home and are secondarily transferred to health facilities. Nine to 84% percent of these women delivered at home. Many of the fistula patients were shorter than 150 cm tall (40-79.4%). The mean duration of labor among the fistula patients ranged from 2.5 to 4 days. Twenty to 95.7% of patients labored for more than 24 h. Operative delivery was eventually performed in 11% to 60% of cases. Obstetric fistula was associated with several risk factors, and they appear to be preventable. This knowledge should be used in strengthening the preventive strategy both at the health facility and at the community level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Urogynecology Journal
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)387-394
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • B780-tropical-medicine
  • Obstetrics
  • Fistula
  • Complications
  • Pathophysiology
  • Clinical aspects
  • Patients
  • Vesicovaginal fistula
  • Bladder
  • Vagina
  • Rectal
  • Adolescents
  • Women
  • Birth
  • Labor
  • Duration
  • Cesarean sections
  • Stillbirth
  • Risk factors
  • Knowledge
  • Educational level
  • Age
  • Height
  • Perinatal mortality
  • Review of the literature


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