The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019)

A Closer Look at Global Prevalence of Obstetric Fistula


Anthropology, Boston University

March 29, 2019 , CC Ballroom BC Add to calendar

Obstetric Fistula (OF) is a fistula in which a passage forms between the vagina and either the rectum, ureter, or bladder. OF is usually the result of untreated difficulties during childbirth. The estimated 2 million women suffering from OF globally are often in pain, immobilized, and ostracized from their families and communities. Reducing global rates of maternal mortality and morbidity is of international concern and a target of the UN Millennium Development Goals. OF research has been conducted almost exclusively in African and South East Asian, with limited research in the Middle East and none in South America. Known risk factors for OF include extreme poverty, high birth rate, poor access to health care, and high maternal mortality rates. We hypothesized that there are women at risk of OF in countries where prevalence has not been examined. Using data from the World Bank Data Base, we create ‘fistula ranges’ for the prevalence of each risk factor by calculating the range and standard deviation in the two countries with highest and lowest rates of fistula researched. Then, we compared the prevalence of each risk factor in unresearched countries. Our results indicate that countries were no OF research has been conducted fell within the fistula range for multiple risk factors. This is an alarming indicator that research should be conducted to assess the prevalence of fistula in these regions. This study identifies crucial regions where women may be silently suffering or where an outside factor is successfully combating OF for future study.