A vaginal fistula is a passage or hole that can form between your vagina and your bowels or your urinary tract. A fistula usually starts with some type of tissue damage to the vagina, like a deep tear after childbirth, long obstructed labor during childbirth, having multiple babies, or chronic bowel disease.

Symptoms of a Vaginal Fistula:

  • Urine or stool leaking out of your vagina
  • Foul-smelling discharge or gas leaking from your vagina
  • Infection (itching, burning or discharge) in your vagina

Vaginal fistulas are usually caused when childbirth is obstructed and a woman goes several days with the baby pushing down hard on her vagina and bladder, without receiving medical care to relieve the pressure and help deliver the baby. Fistulas can cause frequent infections, kidney disease and incontinence, in addition to social stigma and isolation.

Other causes of Vaginal Fistula:
• A deep vaginal tear during delivery or infection of the wound
• Inflammatory bowel disease (like Crohn’s or diverticulitis)
• Radiation for treatment of cancer
• Surgery to the vagina, rectum or a hysterectomy

Young women are particularly at risk for developing a fistula during childbirth, as their pelvis may not be fully developed and they may be small in stature or malnourished.

Other risk factors for developing a fistula include:

  • Poverty
  • Women living in rural areas (due to limited access to medical care)
  • Malnutrition
  • Small stature
  • Poor general health
  • Older women who have delivered multiple children
  • Long, obstructed labor

Treatment of Vaginal Fistula:

  • Must be treated in a health facility
  • May require medicine or surgery to heal the hole

Reconstructive surgery can mend the hole and eliminate symptoms – success rates are as high as 90%. You will need 2 weeks of rest and care after surgery to allow for full healing of the wound

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