FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION AND HEALTH
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common.
Women and girls living with FGM have experienced a harmful practice. Experience of FGM increases the short and long term health risks to women and girls and is unacceptable from a human rights and health perspective. While in general there is an increased risk of adverse health outcomes with increased severity of FGM, WHO is opposed to all forms of FGM and is emphatically against the practice being carried out by health care providers (medicalization).
The risks involved in FGM is not limited to pain and profuse bleeding, below are some of the risks in Cutting of the female genital parts.
SHORT TERM EFFECTS
Severe pain: cutting the nerve ends and sensitive genital tissue causes extreme pain. Proper anaesthesia is rarely used and, when used, is not always effective.
The healing period is also painful. Type III FGM is a more extensive procedure of longer duration, hence the intensity and duration of pain may be more severe. The healing period is also prolonged and intensified accordingly.
Excessive bleeding: (haemorrhage) can result if the clitoral artery or other blood vessel is cut during the procedure.
Shock: can be caused by pain, infection and/or haemorrhage.
Genital tissue swelling: due to inflammatory response or local infection.
Infections: may spread after the use of contaminated instruments (e.g. use of same instruments in multiple genital mutilation operations), and during the healing period.
LONG TERM EFFECTS
Pain: due to tissue damage and scarring that may result in trapped or unprotected nerve endings.
√Chronic genital infections: with consequent chronic pain, and vaginal discharge and itching.
√Cysts, abscesses and genital ulcers may also appear.
√Chronic reproductive tract infections: May cause chronic back and pelvic pain.
√Urinary tract infections: If not treated, such infections can ascend to the kidneys, potentially resulting in renal failure, septicaemia and death. An increased risk for repeated urinary tract infections is well documented in both girls and adult women.
Painful urination: due to obstruction of the urethra and recurrent urinary tract infections.
Menstrual problems: result from the obstruction of the vaginal opening. This may lead to painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), irregular menses and difficulty in passing menstrual blood, particularly among women with Type III FGM.
Keloids: there have been reports of excessive scar tissue formation at the site of the cutting.
Female sexual health:
removalof, or damage to highly sensitive genital tissue, especially the clitoris, may affect sexual sensitivity and lead to sexual problems, such as decreased sexual desire and pleasure, pain during sex, difficulty during penetration, decreased lubrication during intercourse, reduced frequency or absence of orgasm (anorgasmia). Scar formation, pain and traumatic memories associated with the procedure can also lead to such problems.
Psychological consequences: some studies have shown an increased likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression. The cultural significance of FGM might not protect against psychological complications.
Department of Health Promotion and Environmental Health Education, Unilorin