How does FGM/C affect my physical health?
Undergoing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) can cause both immediate and long-term physical health consequences. You may experience some or none of the symptoms listed below. Discuss any symptoms you suspect could be the result of FGM/C with your health care provider.
How can FGM/C affect my physical health?
- Severe Pain1,2,3,4
- Excessive bleeding1,2,3,4
- Bacterial or Viral infection1,2,4
- Injury to surrounding area1,2,4
- Not being able to urinate1,3,4
- Chronic vaginal and pelvic infections1,2,3,4,5
- Continued difficulties with urination (or completely emptying bladder)1,2,3,4,6
- Genital scars such as cysts or keloids1,2,3,4,6
- Pain or lack of pleasure during sex
- Infertility due to chronic infections
Does FGM/C affect my sexual health?
Talk to your health care provider if sex hurts. Women with FGM/C may find it harder to be sexually aroused and experience orgasm because their vascular tissue has been removed. Genital cutting damages nerve endings and makes the vagina inelastic due to scarred tissue, which causes pain during sex.7,8,9 Taking steps to address physical pain during sex can help address any intimacy issues you may be have with your partner.
What should I know about pregnancy and FGM/C?
1. Talk to your health care provider.
They may refer you to an ob-gyn who specializes in women affected by FGM/C.
2. Be prepared for the health care provider to give you a physical exam.
This lets your health care provider determine what impact, if any, FGM/C may have on your pregnancy.1
3. Talk to your health care provider about definfibulation (for Type 3 FGM/C).
Your health care provider may advise you to have deinfibulation done if you have type 3 FGM/C. Deinfibulation is when the skin is cut open in order for a woman to be able to deliver a baby vaginally, have sex, or undergo certain procedures such as pap smears.10 Most physicians and midwives will encourage you to have a vaginal delivery and therefore to first undergo deinfibulation.11,12
4. Prepare a birth plan that's right for you.
You and your healthcare provider should develop a detailed birth plan when you do get pregnant.13 Don't be afraid to ask questions regarding the procedures, hospital policies, and expectation throughout the process. For example, some hospitals do not allow water births, while others will.14
5. Talk to your health care provider about postpartum care.
The six weeks following delivery are crucial for you and your baby's health.15 Your provider will tell you when to come in for your post-partum checkup and what to expect afterwards, including vaginal changes, vaginal soreness, and mood changes.15
6. Check out these additional resources:
- Learn about pregnancy from A to Z, click here.
- Find out how your body is changing each week.
- Eat healthy foods while pregnant.
- Get the right vaccines to protect your baby.
- Build a team of family, friends, and health care providers to help you after the baby is born.
In their own words
A survivor describes her experience speaking to a gynecologist about her constant urge to urinate: