Eradicating obstetric fistula: insights from Brown School alum Bonnie Ruder’s advocacy

Obstetric fistula, affecting around 2 million women globally with 50,000 to 100,000 new cases annually, is a devastating yet preventable condition. It leads to chronic infections, incontinence, and severe social isolation. In this episode of Dr. Aviva Romm’s On Health: A Podcast for Women, Bonnie Ruder, a midwife, medical anthropologist, and co-founder of Terrewode Women’s Fund, sheds light on this issue. She emphasizes that obstetric fistula is preventable and treatable, as demonstrated by the eradication of the condition in the U.S.

The episode discusses the causes, medical and social impacts, as well as the resilience of affected women. Bonnie shares her journey from home birth midwife to fistula activist, advocating for holistic treatment approaches, including medical care, social reintegration, and economic empowerment. The conversation underscores the importance of access to maternal healthcare and the role of traditional birth attendants in prevention.

“I think one of the most important things about fistula is that it is completely preventable and treatable. So this is a solvable problem. We used to have this problem here in the US and now we don’t.”

Bonnie Ruder