Living with an Obstetric Fistula

Like many in Madagascar, Tsima was married at the age of 12 to her teenage boyfriend in a traditional village ceremony. Within a year she was pregnant with her first child. What was a joyous time, for the young mother to be, quickly became tragic as her tiny body was not mature enough to bare a child. Contractions ravaged her body during labour, and finally after hours, she gave birth to a stillborn child.

The tragedy would continue as her husband immediately left her and she discovered that when she stood, the contents of her bladder emptied down her legs. Tsima was suffering from an obstetric fistula; she was permanently incontinent at the age of 13.


Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth. It is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without treatment. In Madagascar there are over 50,000 women who have fistulas, with that number growing each year.

Tsima suffered for 7 years with this treatable condition. Her friends rejected her stating “You Stink” and demanding her to stay away. Like Tsima, women who suffer from obstetric fistulas are left incontinent, shunned by their communities and suffer from depression, social isolation and deep poverty.

VVF Madagascar 2

Luckily, Mercy Ships is bringing hope for women suffering from Fistulas. Tsima heard about the free surgeries that helped women with her condition offered by Mercy Ships and traveled for several days to seek out a cure to finally end her suffering. Through the Women’s Health Program, Mercy Ships is giving women, like Tsima, a second chance.