The Health Consequences of FGM

Box 17


The health consequences of female genital mutilation are both immediate and long-term. The extent and duration of the consequences depend on the extent of the cutting, the skill of the practitioner, the nature of the tools and the environment and the physical condition of the girl or woman. The physical side-effects are much better understood than the effects on mental or sexual health.

Short-term effects include pain, injury to adjacent tissue, severe bleeding (haemorrhage, a potentially life threatening complication), shock, acute urine retention, fractures or dislocations (when a struggling girl is restrained), infection (depending on the cleanliness of the instruments, the substances applied to wounds, and the bindings used on the legs or cut surfaces) and failure to heal.

Long-term complications can include difficulty in passing urine, recurring urinary tract infections, pelvic infections, infertility (from deep infections), scarring, difficulties in menstruation, fistulae (holes or tunnels between the vagina and the bladder or rectum), painful intercourse, sexual dysfunction, and problems in pregnancy and childbirth (the need to cut the vagina to allow delivery and the trauma that results, often compounded by re-stitching).