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Obstetric fistulas are preventable birth injuries to the mother

Not all birth injuries occur to the baby -- sometimes the new mother's body is left virtually torn apart by inept medical care.

That's the case with most obstetric fistulas in this country. While still a common condition in some parts of the world where girls often have babies before their bodies fully develop and medical care is spotty or unavailable, obstetric fistulas are now rare in more developed countries.

Essentially, prolonged labor and/or inept attempts to help the delivery along leave the mother's body torn open with a permanent opening in her vaginal or anal area -- or both -- that allows constant leaking of urine or fecal matter every time the woman moves. Damage to the nerves in her legs can leave the new mother unable to walk. The unnatural openings in her body also her leave prone to infection and kidney disease.

In addition, the social and emotional effects of having a fistula are often overwhelming. While not outright stigmatized in the United States as they are in other countries, they can have a profound effect on a woman's self-esteem, her ability to go out in public, her capacity to hold down a job and her relationship with her spouse may all seriously decline.

Many women aren't warned about the dangers of a prolonged attempt at a vaginal delivery, particularly when the baby's head is large. A doctor who fails to suggest a cesarean to avoid complications could likely be considered guilty of medical malpractice for violating the ordinary standard of care under the circumstances.

If you've suffered a fistula during childbirth, it's important not to delay your consultation with an attorney in order to protect your rights to the compensation you may need for treatment. For more information, talk to a birth injury attorney today.

Source: hamlinfistulausa.org, "Obstetric Fistula in the United States," accessed Aug. 18, 2017

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