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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Waiting for attention and care: birthing accounts of women in rural Tanzania who developed obstetric fistula as an outcome of labour

Lilian T Mselle1*, Thecla W Kohi1, Abu Mvungi2, Bjørg Evjen-Olsen3 and Karen Marie Moland4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

3 Centre for International Health, Bergen, Norway and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Sørlandet Hospital, Kristiansand, Norway

4 School of Nursing, Bergen University College, Bergen, Norway

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:75  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-75

Published: 21 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Obstetric fistula is a physically and socially disabling obstetric complication that affects about 3,000 women in Tanzania every year. The fistula, an opening that forms between the vagina and the bladder and/or the rectum, is most frequently caused by unattended prolonged labour, often associated with delays in seeking and receiving appropriate and adequate birth care. Using the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of care (AAAQ) concept and the three delays model, this article provides empirical knowledge on birth care experiences of women who developed fistula after prolonged labour.

Methods

We used a mixed methods approach to explore the birthing experiences of women affected by fistula and the barriers to access adequate care during labour and delivery. Sixteen women were interviewed for the qualitative study and 151 women were included in the quantitative survey. All women were interviewed at the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation Tanzania in Dar es Salaam and Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza.

Results

Women experienced delays both before and after arriving at a health facility. Decisions on where to seek care were most often taken by husbands and mothers-in-law (60%). Access to health facilities providing emergency obstetric care was inadequate and transport was a major obstacle. About 20% reported that they had walked or were carried to the health facility. More than 50% had reported to a health facility after two or more days of labour at home. After arrival at a health facility women experienced lack of supportive care, neglect, poor assessment of labour and lack of supervision. Their birth accounts suggest unskilled birth care and poor referral routines.

Conclusions

This study reveals major gaps in access to and provision of emergency obstetric care. It illustrates how poor quality of care at health facilities contributes to delays that lead to severe birth injuries, highlighting the need to ensure women's rights to accessible, acceptable and adequate quality services during labour and delivery.