It’s The First International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

Today is the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. Please read on to learn about this devastating condition that affects millions of women in some of the poorest and most remote regions of the globe.

“An obstetric fistula,” I said, standing in the pulpit of my 200-year old church, “is a hole between a woman’s vagina and her bowel, or between her vagina and her bladder.”

The congregation’s discomfort was palpable. Later someone told me that they couldn’t believe that I’d had the nerve to say the “v-word” twice!  It wasn’t exactly the effect I’d hoped to have, but it wasn’t entirely surprising.

Fistula is a childbirth injury that’s unknown today in the developed West, though before the advent of modern maternity care, it affected women — especially poor women — in America as well as Europe. It was likely the reason, at least in some cases, for a woman being euphemistically spoken or written of as an ‘invalid,’ or as having been ‘invalided’ by the birth of a child. Fistula’s story has always been one of (usually secret) suffering; even the surgery to repair the injury, developed by American gynecologist J. Marion Sims in 1840s Alabama, was performed experimentally upon slaves that Sims purchased for the express purpose of perfecting his technique before turning to white patients.

It’s women of color who still all but exclusively suffer fistula’s life-destroying effects.

{Read the rest at Sojourners}

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