KATHMANDU, NEPAL – After eight years of living with a prolapsed uterus, Pritimaya Shrestha, 66, is finally receiving medical treatment. She lives in the remote hills of Nepal some 600 kilometers (370 miles) from Kathmandu. Now, Shrestha has traveled to the capital to seek the care she has waited nearly a decade for.
Her face is wrinkled and adorned with a nose ring, and her body is starting to stoop with age. Shrestha says that she has been suffering from back and lower abdominal pain for years, and when she started bleeding, she asked her daughter Tika to accompany her on the journey to the capital.
“I fear that I would be looked down upon due to my problem,” Shrestha says with a sigh. “Therefore, came only when my daughter promised that she would not tell anyone about my problem.”
Shrestha, who spent most of her life farming and rearing cattle, says she began to suffer from mild prolapse nearly a decade ago. Still, she worked with a lump protruding from her vagina.
“I had to push that lump of muscles 20 times a day inside the vagina,” Shrestha says.
Then a buffalo hit her three years ago, worsening her condition. She says that she fell to the ground, leading to the complete prolapse of her uterus. She was terrified at first but didn’t seek help because of the stigma attached to uterine prolapse, Shrestha says.
Dedicating her life to tending to the needs of her family after getting married at age 15, Shrestha says she used to think that she would have a better life in her old age. She had no idea that her toils would lead to her current condition.
She says that the doctor she consulted at Kathmandu’s Prasuti Griha Government Maternity Hospital also attributed her condition to lack of prenatal and postnatal care surrounding her seven pregnancies. She says she knew about this care but never obtained it.
“I gave birth to seven children with two years’ birth gap in each case,” she says, further wrinkling her face in distress. “I used to easily carry load of 50 kilograms (110 pounds) even in my post-pregnancy period. And now I cannot even sit properly.”
Many women in Nepal, especially in rural areas, suffer from uterine prolapse. Doctors attribute this condition to various causes, including poverty, heavy labor, lack of prenatal and postnatal care, inadequate birth spacing and a social stigma that prevents them from obtaining medical care. But health professionals say that this is changing, noting an increase in the number of women seeking treatment for uterine prolapse. The government, nongovernmental organizations and hospitals have been collaborating to offer free treatment at medical camps, with doctors stressing nutrition and ring pessaries over surgery.
Uterine prolapse is the condition in which the uterus falls from its normal position and, in more severe cases, protrudes out of the vagina, says Dr. Aruna Shakya from Kathmandu Model Hospital, a private hospital in the capital.
More than 600,000 women in