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A qualitative study of the experience of obstetric fistula survivors in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Authors Gebresilase Y

Received 25 May 2014

Accepted for publication 4 August 2014

Published 8 December 2014 Volume 2014:6 Pages 1033—1043

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S68382

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Elie Al-Chaer


Yenenesh Tadesse Gebresilase

Programme Quality Department, Vita, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Abstract: Research on obstetric fistula has paid limited attention to the lived experiences of survivors. This qualitative study explored the evolution of survivors' perceptions of their social relationships and health since developing this obstetric complication. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight survivors who were selected based on purposive and snowball sampling techniques. Thematic categorization and content analysis was used to analyze the data. The resultant themes included participants' understanding of factors predisposing to fistula, challenges they encounter, their coping responses, and the meaning of their experiences. First, the participants had a common understanding of the factors that predisposed them to obstetric fistula. They mentioned poor knowledge about pregnancy, early marriage, cultural practices, and a delay in or lack of access to emergency obstetric care. Second, the participants suffered from powerlessness experienced during their childhood and married lives. They also faced prolonged obstructed labor, physical injury, emotional breakdown, depression, erosion of social capital, and loss of healthy years. Third, to control their negative emotions, participants reported isolating themselves, having suicidal thoughts, positive interpretation about the future, and avoidance. To obtain relief from their disease, the women used their family support, sold their properties, and oriented to reality. Fourth, the participants were struggling to keep going, to accept their changed reality, and to change their perspectives on life. In conclusion, obstetric fistula has significant physical, psychosocial, and emotional consequences. The study participants were not passive victims but rather active survivors of these challenges. Adequate support was not provided by their formal or informal support systems. To prevent and manage obstetric fistula successfully, there should be family-based interventions that improve access to and provision of emergency obstetric care. These initiatives should also ensure men's participation, women's empowerment, and the utilization of community-based institutions.

Keywords: Ethiopia, content analysis, coping mechanisms, survivors

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