The single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth…and how you can help

[Photo by Daniel C. White]

When I heard about the work Wendy Powell is doing with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, I knew you would want to know about it too.

When I was in Ethiopia a few years ago, one thing I remember feeling was a longing for pregnant women to have safe childbirths. Because my own pregnancies and childbirths were high-risk and at times downright dangerous, I couldn’t help wondering what would have happened to me (and my precious babies) without access to proper medical care.

I hope you will take the time to learn about this incredible organization and the work they are doing to help moms in Ethiopia. Please share and help as you are able. Thank you.


Wendy Powell - MuTu System

Thank you Alysa, for allowing me to divert from my usual postpartum restoration and exercise posts here, to write about the work of this amazing hospital.

“These women have suffered more than any woman should be called upon to endure. To meet only one is to be profoundly moved and calls forth the utmost compassion that the human heart is capable of feeling.” – Dr. Catherine Hamlin AC

When I first learned about the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, their work, the women they help… I connected as I know many of you will at a deep level. Because but for the sheer luck that I live where I live – that could have been me.

I had my babies in the UK – relatively complicated, assisted births with severe postpartum hemorrhage and requiring acute intervention. I had all the medical assistance I required. My body and my heart had a whole lot of recovering to do, as I know many of yours do after traumatic birth experiences.

But my precious babies and I survived and thrived. The experience inspired me to create MuTu, empowering, validating and educating women to have fully functional bodies that feel good.

But many women around the world have access to no such assistance or medical care when they give birth. And sometimes this leaves them with utterly devastating injuries that strip them of their dignity and wellbeing.


An obstetric fistula develops when the blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and bladder (and/or rectum) is cut off during prolonged, obstructed labor. In the vast majority of cases, the woman gives birth to a stillborn baby.

The tissues die and a hole forms through which urine and/or feces pass uncontrollably. Women who develop fistulae are often abandoned by their husbands, rejected by their communities and forced to live an isolated existence.

Almost eradicated in the “developed” world since the end of the 19th century when caesarean section and informed medical intervention became widely available, obstetric fistula continues to plague women throughout the developing world.

The WHO has called fistula “the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth”. In addition to incontinence, a fistula victim may also have nerve damage affecting their ankles and feet. If a woman lies on her mat for a prolonged period of time, waiting for the urine to dry, she may also develop contractions of the joints of her legs, as her muscles and tendons shorten from lack of use, and be unable to walk. Fistula victims also suffer profound psychological trauma resulting from their utter loss of status and dignity.

Hamlin Fistula Hospital Ethiopia

“Mourning the stillbirth of their only child, incontinent of urine, ashamed of their offensiveness, often spurned by their husbands, homeless, unemployable, except in the fields, they endure, they exist, without friends and without hope. They bear their sorrows in silent shame. Their miseries, untreated are utter, lonely and lifelong.”
Dr Reginal Hamlin

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia gives women specialist surgical intervention to restore the most basic level of physical function and dignity that many of us are privileged to take for granted. It treats every woman for free.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia literally puts women back together again. Awesome, awesome people.

So here is where you can help…

I am honoured to be partnering with Sarah Hamlin (Dr Catherine’s grand-daughter) and running in the Great Ethiopian Run in November 2015 to raise money to help this work to continue.

I am beyond grateful to be able to take my family on this life changing experience, to visit Ethiopia and the hospital.

It’s really important that I make clear that my own company MuTu System will be covering ALL mine and my family’s expenses and costs associated with the trip – not one dollar, pound or euro you donate is going anywhere but direct to the charity. Not one.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, you can donate via this JustGiving link in any currency (just use the currency dropdown on the donation page). So please click and help us smash our fundraising target!

Please click the ‘Sponsor Me’ link and send what you can… and please, please SHARE this post using the social media buttons below. Thank you so much!


More information about the organization from the Hamlin Fistula website

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a registered charitable organisation in Ethiopia dedicated to the treatment and prevention of childbirth injuries called obstetric fistulas. Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin founded this organisation in 1974 after being confronted with the tragic situation of Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fistulas.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia oversees:

• Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital- the worlds first fistula hospital,
• five regional centres providing health care to rural women,
• Hamlin College of Midwives,
• Desta Mender – a farm and training centre for long-term patients.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a world-class centre of excellence for treating obstetric fistulas and training doctors to specialise in this surgery. Rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy, counselling and skills training are available to assist patients regain their self-esteem, find meaningful employment and reintegrate to village life.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is dedicated to the eradication of obstetric fistulas through its preventative strategy of providing trained midwives in the rural regions of the country.

Over 700 Ethiopians are employed across Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and only two of the staff are from overseas: Dr Catherine Hamlin and Mr Martin Andrews, the CEO.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia relies on the generosity of donors to continue its work in treating and preventing obstetric fistulas, ensuring Ethiopian women have holistic and compassionate healthcare.