Social stigma Geneva doctor helps women hurt by childbirth

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Millions of women in Africa and Asia cannot get a caesarean section. One of the many complications they suffer from during childbirth is obstetric fistulas. A Geneva doctor is improving their lives by undoing the damage. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)  

For the past 20 years, Geneva doctor Charles-Henry Rochat has been treating women in the north of Benin who suffer from the complications of a difficult birth. They have obstetric – also known as vaginal – fistulas. These women should have had a caesarean, but because they are poor and live far from hospitals the birth goes badly and the child dies. Before the child is removed, it can cause a lot of strain on the tissue, some of which dies off and leaves holes.

Because of these holes – fistulas – the women are often left not only incontinent but also infertile. They stop having sexual relations and are often shunned because they smell bad. Many live in shame. According to the World Health Organization, over two million women – mainly in Africa and Asia – suffer from obstetric fistulas. Because of the shame, many remain silent.