Meet Mary

Mary's first two pregnancies progressed normally, giving her two healthy children. But she never could have imagined what would happen when it came time to deliver her third child.

Mary's Story

“Fistula is most dehumanizing condition that I have ever known. I stayed home because whenever I would go to where people are, they would just hold their noses and start leaving one by one, and eventually I would be left alone. One year with fistula has robbed me of so many things that I spent very time building including: self- esteem, marriage and relationships.”

Mary was the mother of two healthy children, but her third pregnancy did not progress as planned. She attempted to deliver the child at home, as she had with her other children, but after 24 hours of labor, her pain subsided. Mary decided that she would use the break in pain to do a thorough cleaning, as she did not feel she had prepared enough for the baby’s arrival.

“I assumed that the pains I experienced were false labor. I decided to utilize the time the pain had gone down to prepare a bit,” said Mary. She waited for four days for the labor pains to return when she began to notice strange things in her urine. She told her husband what she saw, and he recommended that she seek medical help. This is when Mary learned that her baby had died, days ago. The stillborn child was delivered by Cesarean section. Not long after, Mary began to leak urine.

Luckily for Mary, the doctors at the hospital where she was treated were familiar with her condition, and informed her that she had developed an obstetric fistula.

“I could have been treated almost immediately,” Mary explained, “but due to my health, which had badly deteriorated, I was advised to wait a few months before going in for another surgery.”

Mary will wait for her body to heal before receiving a free fistula surgery at the Kisii Gynocare Fistula Center, provided through Fistula Foundation’s Action on Fistula program. But, she considers herself lucky. “I don’t know what could have become of me if I had Iived with fistula like other women, who lived with fistula for decades.”

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Domitila



    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Habiba-Niger



    Habiba was married at 16 and pregnant with her first child soon thereafter. She began labor at home, as most women do in Niger. After enduring two days of painful, obstructed labor, she was sent in an ox-cart to the nearest hospital. By the time she received a Caesarian section, Habiba had been in labor for four days. Her baby did not survive.

  • Mayeye

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    In the year 2000, Mayeye was pregnant with her fourth child. Not long after giving birth, she felt intense pain in her abdomen and began leaking urine. She had developed obstetric fistula. Despite her injury, Mayeye continued working on her family’s small farm. She had no choice but to work through the pain, because her family was depending on her.

  • Jenipher


    While giving birth to her fifth child in 1998, Jenipher endured a prolonged labor, and her baby was stillborn. Afterwards, Jenipher began leaking uncontrollably- she had developed an obstetric fistula. After 18 years of living with fistula, she had all but given up hope of getting treatment, until she heard a comforting voice on the radio.

  • Jane


    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • Helen


    Helen went into labor with her second child about four years ago. She gave birth in her home, where she labored for many hours, completely alone without anyone present to assist her. Her baby was stillborn and she began leaking urine immediately.

  • Marizany


    At the age of 18, Marizany and her husband looked forward to the arrival of their first child. But labor did not go as planned, and Marizany was left with an obstetric fistula, leaking urine uncontrollably. She suffered from fistula for 28 years.

  • Francine


    She became pregnant with her first child around age 17. Things did not go as planned, and Francine found herself in labor for three days. Finally, she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered via C-section. As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Francine had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Tahinomenjanahary


    Tahinomenjanahary went in to labor at the age of 17. Her labor was excruciating, but she did not begin the journey to the nearest hospital until she had been in labor for more than a day. In total, she labored for three days. The baby did not survive.

  • Fatima, from Sudan (photo credit: WAHA)



    Fatima lives in Sudan. She went into labor at the age of 16, but initially didn't have access to a hospital. By the time she was taken to the hospital, the baby was dead, and Fatima developed an obstetric fistula. Her husband divorced her, leaving Fatima emotionally shattered by the loss of her husband and first born child.

  • Solange


    Solange spent the majority of her teenage years suffering from obstetric fistula.

  • Salome


    Salome's labor began at night. She sought help from her mother-in-law, who immediately called Salome's husband - by cultural norms, the only one who could give permission for Salome to seek help at a hospital. But he had turned his phone off for the night and was unreachable. Her mother-in-law tried all she could throughout the night to help Salome deliver her child. By the time Salome's husband returned the call the next morning to advise that she be taken immediately to the hospital, it was too late. The baby did not survive, and Salome had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Seline


    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%

  • Alitash


    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • Marivelo


    In May, 2013, Marivelo went in to labor with her first child. Her labor lasted for four days. The child did not survive, and Marivelo was left incontinent of urine. She had developed an obstetric fistula as a result of the prolonged, unrelieved labor.

  • Nura


    Nura comes from Lai, a region in the south of Chad where she married at age 17. She first became pregnant at 20 and tried to give birth at home, aided only by her family. After 4 days of complicated labor, she was finally taken to the maternity center in Guidari, a nearby village.

  • Celestine


    In obstructed labor with her sixth child, Celestine was rushed to her local health facility, only to be told she couldn’t have emergency surgery until her family made a down payment. Anxious and afraid, she waited for her husband to return with the money needed.

  • Fina


    Sixteen years ago, a childbirth injury turned Fina’s life upside down. But after losing everything—her health, her husband, even her own family—she was determined to take her future into her own hands.