Obstetric fistula is a hole between the bladder or rectum and the vagina, which develops when obstructed labor is not relieved by cesarean section and results in uncontrollable leaking of urine and/or feces. The only cure for obstetric fistula is surgical repair. Multiple studies have documented the social and psychological impact of obstetric fistula, which includes social isolation, stigma, depression, and mental health dysfunction. The surgical repair setting can be a window of opportunity to address the accumulated mental health distress of living with a fistula. However, to date no intervention studies have evaluated empirically-supported therapies to assist in psychological healing among fistula patients. The proposed study aims to fill this gap by developing and pilot-testing a theoretically informed mental health intervention for women receiving surgical repair for obstetric fistula at KCMC Hospital in Moshi, Tanzania. The study has three specific aims: 1) To develop the nurse-delivered mental health intervention, built on theories of coping and cognitive behavioral therapy, 2) To assess feasibility and acceptability of implementing the intervention in the KCMC fistula ward, considering: intervention fidelity, patient satisfaction, provider feedback and cost of delivery, 3) To assess effectiveness of the intervention by comparing immediate and short term outcomes in 30 women who receive the experimental intervention with 30 women receiving the standard of care counseling, examining differences in primary outcomes (depression, PTSD and somatic symptoms) and secondary outcomes (coping, perceived stigma, social support, social participation, efficacy to engage with providers, adherence to clinical recommendations and social reintegration). The proposed research directly responds to the needs specified by NIH because it expands the "evidence base for improving social outcomes" of women with obstetric fistula and develops a "sustainable intervention" that complements existing local care (PA-11-143). At the completion of this study, it is our expectation that we will have a structured intervention curriculum and supportive preliminary data to inform an R01 application to conduct a multi-site evaluation of the intervention, which, if effective, can be disseminated to fistula repair clinics internationally.

Public Health Relevance

Over 2 million worldwide are living with obstetric fistula, a condition that develops through childbirth and results in constant leaking of urine or feces. This study addresses the unique mental health needs of this population by developing and pilot testing a mental health intervention, based on theories of coping and cognitive behavioral therapy, for women receiving surgical repair for obstetric fistulae at a hospital in Tanzania.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Nursing and Related Clinical Sciences Study Section (NRCS)
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Reddy, Uma M
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Duke University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Watt, Melissa H; Wilson, Sarah M; Joseph, Mercykutty et al. (2014) Religious coping among women with obstetric fistula in Tanzania. Glob Public Health 9:516-27