How can I talk to my health care provider about FGM/C?

Women smiling and comforting one another

You may feel nervous talking about genital cutting to a doctor, nurse, therapist, or other health care provider. Sharing details about your experience with FGM/C and medical history, however, ensures health care providers can tailor a treatment to your individual needs. 

You should:
  • Ask for a translator/interpreter, if you need one.1
  • Ask your health care provider questions about your body.
  • Tell your health care provider about any pains or discomfort that could be the result of FGM/C.
  • Take control of your treatment! Ask about the different treatment options available to you. Ask about any potential side effects. Don't agree to anything you aren't comfortable with. 
  • Ask to be seen by a different provider if you aren't comfortable with your current one.  
  • Bring someone you trust with you on visits if you feel safer discussing this sensitive topic with that person around. 

What are some questions I can ask my health care provider?

Use the sample questions below to get the conversation started with your health care provider. 

If you have general concerns about how FGM/C affects your health, you can ask:
  • What symptoms should I look out for if I have type I, II or III FGM/C?
  • I heard from relatives that one reason I may be getting frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) is because of my Type III FGM/C. Is that possible?
  • I’m feeling a little anxious and down lately, can I talk to someone about this?
If you are having painful or uncomfortable sex, you can ask:
  • How does my FGM/C affect my sexual health?
  • How can I make sex less painful?
If you are pregnant, you can ask:
  • How will my delivery be affected by FGM/C?
  • I heard that I may need to undergo a C-section, is that always the case?
  • I have Type III FGM/C, so my vagina is sewn shut. What are my options for a vaginal delivery?
  • Can you explain to me what deinfibulation is? Is it painful? How long is the recovery time following the procedure?

Questions you can ask your health care provider PDF Version


What would I do if I am ready to get help?

You can:
  • Talk to friends and family about FGM/C, if it is safe to do so. At the same time, consider the risks involved with discussing FGM/C.
  • Consider legal options if someone else is at risk, particularly if you or someone you know is under 18 years. 
    • Here is an overview for FGM/C laws in The U.S. Performing female genital mutilation/cutting is illegal in over 30 U.S. states. Federal law also criminalizes transporting a minor to a foreign country for FGM/C. In 2018, a federal judge struck down a 1996 U.S. law banning FGM/C, leaving in place a patchwork of state-level laws to help combat FGM/C.2
  • Discuss treatment options with your health care provider. 
  •  Consider going to low cost clinics near you if you don't have health insurance.
    • In D.C., DC Healthy Start provides support and referrals for women and infants. They also provide Reproductive Life Planning and Centering Pregnancy Sessions for pregnant women.
    • The Muslim Community Center (MCC) Clinic provides healthcare services and low cost options for patients without health insurance.   
  • Stay involved in learning more about FGM/C. 

In their own words

A woman talks about FGM/C for the first time with a health care provider:  On khatna


Reporting: recent FGM/C experience or imminent risk of FGM/C 

If you or someone you know is feeling pressured by your community to have FGM/C, please reach out to a health care provider or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) for child protective services agencies or other age-appropriate resources and professional advice. You also may contact the Office of Women’s Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.