Reasons for delay in accessing free treatment of obstetric fistula in South-East Nigeria – A qualitative study

Adebayo BC Daniyan, Henry Uro-Chukwu, Johnson Obuna, Ifeoma Mighty-Chukwu, Emmanuel Yakubu, Olapeju Daniyan


Obstetric fistula continues to be a menace in Nigeria and other low- and middle-income countries. The national policy for its elimination makes surgical repair free in dedicated national centres. However, the majority of the clients present late for repair. The aim of the study was to explore the reasons for this delay in seeking treatment. It was a qualitative (exploratory) study carried out at the National Obstetric Fistula Centre (NOFIC), Abakaliki, Nigeria among obstetric fistula patients who presented for treatment with a duration of leakage of over six months. A consecutive sampling technique was used for patient recruitment. Data was collected from twenty patients using in-depth interviews. Thematic analysis of the responses and recurring patterns was done, with themes illustrated using the word cloud. The mean age of the participants was 37.1 years (range = 21-75 years) while the mean duration of leakage was 64.3 months (range = 8-564 months). Reasons for delay in accessing treatment of obstetric fistula were lack of awareness of the availability of free treatment in a specialized centre, delay in referral from index health care facilities, wrong information from health care workers, failed repairs at other health facilities, secondary delay due to transportation challenges, cultural beliefs and other issues peculiar to the patients. The commonest reason for the delay in accessing treatment for obstetric fistula is a lack of awareness on the part of patients, the public, and health workers. We recommend improved campaigns, advocacy, and community mobilization. (Afr J Reprod Health 2022; 26 [12]: 23-31)

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