December 10, 2023

The Head of the Vesicovaginal Fistula Unit at General Hospital, Calabar, Dr. Etim Ayi, says teenage pregnancy is a major cause of VVF in Cross River.

Ayi, who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Calabar, said, “there is an upsurge of teenage pregnancy among girls between the ages of 12 and 14 years, which is a dangerous development.”

NAN reports that VVF is an opening that develops between the bladder and the wall of the vagina. The result is that urine leaks out of the vagina, sometimes lightly but it can be steady if the fistula is large.

In addition to being a serious medical problem, the condition is upsetting, as it is one of the most distressing complications of gynecologic and obstetric procedures, but can be reversed and repaired through surgery, and survivors can resume their normal lives.

The common causes of VVF are obstructed labour, early marriage, poverty and women’s limited control over the use of family resources.

NAN also reports that the condition can cause a lot of discomfort, and if left untreated, it can cause serious bacterial infection, which may result in sepsis, a dangerous condition that can lead to low blood pressure, organ damage, or even death.

The head of the VVF unit at the General Hospital, Calabar, said many of the teenagers who get pregnant in the villages lose the baby and come down with VVF.

He said “they end up in the hospital when their condition has deteriorated in the village, after being handled by quacks.

“There is the need for increased sensitisation in rural areas.

“VVF develops when there is an incompatibility between the head of a baby and the size of the mother’s pelvis during childbirth, which ordinarily should mature with age and good nutrition.

“But poor nutrition, premature pelvis, and being below 1.5 metres tall with pregnancy are some of the factors that predispose a female to VVF.

“When there is a disproportion between the size of the pelvis and circumference of a baby’s head, there will be a compression of the sub-tissue either in the anterior (bladder) or posterior (rectum) and underlying bone structure.”

According to him, when the compression is more than three hours, the probability of having fistula is high because blood supply to the tissue that is being compressed is gradually being terminated and the tissue will die.

The plastic and fistula surgeon said “when this happens, urine will start flowing without control, if it flows into the vagina anteriorly from the bladder, it is VVF but if it happened posteriorly and you see the fecal matter from the rectum to the vagina then it is Rectum Vagina Fistula (RVF).

The doctor added that while it was important for the government to intensify the campaign against child marriage and teenage pregnancy, especially in rural areas, parents must start doing something from home.

“Parents must be close to their children, especially daughters, educate them about sex and its consequences and get them to trust and talk to you about their challenges; this will help to curb teenage pregnancy,” he advised.

He thanked the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) “for its extensive support in the fight against VVF and the government of Cross River for an enabling environment.”


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