Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Shattered lives : understanding obstetric fistula in Uganda Public Deposited

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  • In Uganda, there are an estimated 200,000 women suffering from obstetric fistula, with 1,900 new cases expected annually. These figures, combined with a persistently high maternal mortality rate, have led to an international discourse that claims the solution to improving maternal health outcomes is facility-based delivery with a skilled birth attendant. In accord with this discourse, the Ugandan government criminalized traditional birth attendants in 2010. In this study, I examine the lived experience of traditional birth attendants and women who have suffered from an obstetric fistula in eastern Uganda. Using data collected from open-ended, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and participant-observation, I describe the biocultural determinants of obstetric fistula. Based on findings, I argue that although emergency obstetric care is critical to prevent obstetric fistula in cases of obstructed labor, the criminalization of the locally constructed system of care, TBAs, serves as yet another layer of structural violence in the lives of rural, poor women. Results demonstrate how political-economic and cultural determinants of obstetric fistula are minimized in favor of a Western prescribed, bio-medical solution, which is heavily resource dependent. This solution is promoted through a political economy of hope fueled by the obstetric imaginary, or the enthusiastic belief in Western-style biomedical obstetric care’s ability to deliver positive health outcomes for women and infants regardless of local context and constraints. Recommendations include increased obstetric fistula treatment facilities with improved communication from medical staff, decriminalization of traditional birth attendants and renewed training programs, and engaging local populations in maternal health discourse to ensure culturally competent programs.
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