Objective: To examine the role of delayed childbearing in the prevention of obstetric fistulas (OFs).
Methods: Data on 4798 deliveries in Niger (1995-1998), 3552 in Nigeria (1996-1999), and 6789 in Tanzania (1991-1996) were analyzed with logistic regression models.
Results: Young maternal age and primiparous status were identified as correlates of prolonged/obstructed labor. The annual incidence of OFs in Nigeria was found to be 2.11 per 1000 births, with 9817 cases developing each year, 28% in women and girls younger than 20 years. The predicted proportion of women experiencing prolonged/obstructed labor would be reduced by 11.2% in Niger, 11.4% in Nigeria, and 13.1% in Tanzania if the risks associated with young maternal age at first delivery and primiparity were eliminated.
Conclusions: Community programs to educate young, newly married women about delaying childbearing until they reach physical maturity should be implemented in countries with a high incidence of OFs.