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Cult Health Sex. 2009 Jun;11(5):499-513. doi: 10.1080/13691050902874777.

The lived experience of Malawian women with obstetric fistula.

Author information

  • 1Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC, USA. myeakey@prb.org

Abstract

Data on women who experience obstetric fistula paints an often tragic picture. The majority of previous research has focused on facility-based data from women receiving surgical treatment. The goal of this qualitative study was to gain an understanding of the lived experience of obstetric fistula in Malawi. Forty-five women living with fistula were interviewed in their homes to learn how the condition affected them and their families on a daily basis. Findings indicate that the experiences of Malawian women with fistula were more varied than anticipated. Concerning relationships with husbands and family, we found high rates of divorce and stigma, yet these outcomes were far from universal or inevitable. Many women, in addition to their families, discussed high levels of support from those individuals closest to them. Nonetheless, many women experienced the fistula as a direct assault on their ability to fulfil social expectations of them as women, wives and mothers. Women identified fertility and continued childbearing as central concerns. The data suggest that we cannot discount the experiences of women living with fistula from continued participation in marriage, community and childbearing. Programmes for outreach and services should consider a broadened range of outcomes of women living with fistula.

PMID:
19444686
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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