Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth





PubMed ID





School of Nursing and Midwifery




Bulndi, L. B., Ireson, D., Adama, E., & Bayes, S. (2022). Sub-Saharan African women’s views and experiences of risk factors for obstetric fistula: A qualitative systematic review. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 22, Article 680.


Background: Obstetric fistula used as synonymous with VVF in this study, is an abnormal communication/hole between the urinary tract and the genital tract or the gastrointestinal tract and the genital tract, resulting from prolonged obstructed labour. VVF may cause sufferers to experience chronic urinary/faecal incontinence, and the stigma of continuing foul odour. VVF is primarily caused by prolonged obstructed labour, which is brought about by a range of causes. Recently, it has been proposed that women’s groups and fistula survivors should suggest interventions to reduce or prevent the incidence of obstetric fistula. Objective: The objective of this review was to synthesise what is reported about women’s views and experiences of the risk factors underlying the causes of VVF. Methods: A systematic approach outlined in the Joanna Briggs Institute Manual for Evidence synthesis was followed for this review, articles published since the last 11 years from 2011 to 2021 were selected against several criteria and critically appraised using JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist for qualitative studies. Results: Nine studies were retained for inclusion in this review and the data were then synthesised into five themes: (1) Cultural beliefs and practices impeding safe childbirth, (2) Lack of woman’s autonomy in choices of place to birth safely, (3) Lack of accessibility and social support to safe childbirth, (4) Inexperienced birth attendants and, (5) Delayed emergency maternal care (childbirth). Conclusions: This review highlights the complexity of risk factors predisposing women to the known causes of VVF. It also illuminates the absence of women’s voices in the identification of solutions to these risks. Women are most directly affected by VVF. Therefore, their knowledge, views, and experiences should be considered in the development and implementation of strategies to address the issue. Exploring women’s views on this issue would enable the identification of gaps in maternity care provision, which would be of interest to community and health service leaders as well as policymakers in Sub-Saharan Africa.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.