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Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric fistulas are, thankfully, extremely rare in the UK. However, when they do occur, a woman will understandably want to know why it happened, if anything could have been done to prevent it, and if any further action can be taken.

What Is An Obstetric Fistula?

An obstetric fistula is when a hole develops between the rectum and the vagina (called a rectovaginal fistula) or between the bladder and the vagina (called a vesicovaginal fistula). The condition can arise due to a number of reasons, although it most frequently occurs because of a long and difficult labour.

What Causes An Obstetric Fistula?

During childbirth, the weight of the unborn baby puts pressure on the birth canal, sometimes cutting off the blood supply to the surrounding tissue. If the tissue goes too long without blood (and therefore without oxygen) it will begin to die known medically as becoming 'necrotic'. Once the tissue is necrotic, it will start to rot away and leave an opening either between the rectum and the vagina, or the bladder and the vagina.

Symptoms Of An Obstetric Fistula

When a woman develops an obstetric fistula, she will quickly present symptoms which include the following:-

  • Urine or faecal incontinence;
  • Recurrent infection;
  • Ulceration of the vaginal tract;
  • Nerve damage, which in severe cases can lead to paralysis of the legs.

Treating An Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric fistulas can be treated, although it does require attention from specialist surgeons. A patient will be put under general anaesthetic, and reconstructive intravaginal surgery performed to close the fistula. If carried out with due skill and attention, a patient has a good chance of making a full recovery. It is also likely a patient will be able to regain control over their bodily functions once more.

If left untreated, however, obstetric fistulas can have serious consequences. Recurring infections may lead to kidney disease or even kidney failure, nerve damage and emotional/psychological problems.

Preventing An Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric fistulas can widely be prevented as long as a woman has access to good obstetric care. Thus fistulas usually only occur in developing countries, where poverty is rife and trained health professionals are lacking. When a woman is suffering from a prolonged labour, a competent obstetric team will be able to manage her condition, ensuring the well-being of both mother and child are taken care of. In some circumstances, a traumatic labour may result in an emergency caesarean.

Birth Injuries And Medical Negligence

Nevertheless, obstetric fistulas do happen in the UK. If this has happened to you, you may want to consider whether or not your injury was the direct result of medical negligence. Perhaps your labour was not carefully monitored? You should have had an emergency caesarean section? Or a post-delivery vaginal examination was not performed and you left hospital with an undiagnosed fistula? To find out if you were indeed the victim of a substandard level of care, you need to discuss your treatment with a medical negligence solicitor without delay.

Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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