The lived experience of Malawian women with obstetric fistula

Marissa Pine Yeakey, Effie Chipeta, Frank Taulo, Amy O. Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Data on women who experience obstetric fistula paints an often tragic picture. The majority of previous research has focused on facility-based data from women receiving surgical treatment. The goal of this qualitative study was to gain an understanding of the lived experience of obstetric fistula in Malawi. Forty-five women living with fistula were interviewed in their homes to learn how the condition affected them and their families on a daily basis. Findings indicate that the experiences of Malawian women with fistula were more varied than anticipated. Concerning relationships with husbands and family, we found high rates of divorce and stigma, yet these outcomes were far from universal or inevitable. Many women, in addition to their families, discussed high levels of support from those individuals closest to them. Nonetheless, many women experienced the fistula as a direct assault on their ability to fulfil social expectations of them as women, wives and mothers. Women identified fertility and continued childbearing as central concerns. The data suggest that we cannot discount the experiences of women living with fistula from continued participation in marriage, community and childbearing. Programmes for outreach and services should consider a broadened range of outcomes of women living with fistula.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-513
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Malawi
  • Maternal morbidity
  • Obstetric fistula
  • Quality of life
  • Women's experiences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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