Experiences with fistula repair surgery among women and families in Malawi

M. P. Yeakey, E. Chipeta, Y. Rijken, F. Taulo, A. O. Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fistula treatment through surgery is reported to be successful in 80-90% of cases. Success in fistula repair has been defined by medical professionals in terms of clinical outcomes; beyond these definitions, it is important to understand how women perceive a positive clinical outcome and how it affects her family and home environment. This research was conducted in the Mangochi District of Malawi to answer these questions through interviews with women living with fistula and after surgical repair, as well as their partners and families. Over 104 interviews were conducted in June and October 2007. While eventually experiencing clinically successful surgical outcomes, women reported difficulty in seeking and receiving healthcare. Bureaucratic challenges were complicated by community misperceptions about the condition and fear of the healthcare system. Perspectives of women's families suggest that burdens and social disabilities caused by fistula extended beyond the individual to affect these family members. When women experienced surgical treatment, positive outcomes spread to her family and community. Positive experiences with the healthcare system turned women into advocates for healthcare in their communities. These findings illustrate that issues of obstetric fistula are not limited to individual women, but can dramatically affect their families, partners and communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-167
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal public health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Malawi
  • Maternal morbidity
  • Obstetric fistula
  • Qualitative data analysis
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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