An obstetric fistula is an inappropriate connection between the vagina, rectum, or bladder that results in faecal or urine incontinence. Young women from rural areas with poor socioeconomic situations and education are the majority of victims, which restricts their access to high-quality healthcare. Obstetric fistulas can have devastating effects on the physical health of affected women if they are not promptly treated. Inadequate awareness of the symptoms delays recognition of the problem, prompt reporting, and treatment. Women with poor awareness of the disorder are also more likely to develop complications, including mental health issues. Using data from a nationally representative survey, this study investigated the prevalence and factors associated with the awareness of obstetric fistula among women of reproductive age in The Gambia.
This study used population-based cross-sectional data from the 2019–2020 Gambia Demographic and Health survey. A total of 11823 reproductive-aged women were sampled for this study. Stata software version 16.0 was used for all statistical analyses. Obstetric fistula awareness was the outcome variable. Multilevel logistic regression models were fitted, and the results were presented as adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with statistical significance set at p < 0.05.
The prevalence of obstetric fistula awareness was 12.81% (95%CI: 11.69, 14.12). Women aged 45–49 years (aOR = 2.17, 95%CI [1.54, 3.06]), married women (aOR = 1.39, 95%CI [1.04, 1.87]), those with higher education (aOR = 2.80, 95%CI [2.08, 3.79]), and women who worked as professionals or occupied managerial positions (aOR = 2.32, 95%CI [1.74, 3.10]) had higher odds of obstetric fistula awareness. Women who had ever terminated pregnancy (aOR = 1.224, 95%CI [1.06, 1.42]), those who listened to radio at least once a week (aOR = 1.20, 95%CI [1.02, 1.41]), ownership of a mobile phone (aOR = 1.20, 95%CI [1.01, 1.42]) and those who were within the richest wealth index (aOR = 1.39, 95%CI [1.03, 1.86]) had higher odds of obstetric fistula awareness.
Our findings have revealed inadequate awareness of obstetric fistula among women of reproductive-age in The Gambia. Obstetric fistulas can be mitigated by implementing well-planned public awareness initiatives at the institutional and community levels. We, therefore, recommend reproductive health education on obstetric fistula beyond the hospital setting to raise reproductive-age women's awareness.