Women suffer from FGM as young children from the operation, at the time of their marriage as adults and later during their child delivery. Female genital mutilation has detrimental effects on the physical and psychological health of the infants, girl-children and women operated. The degree of complications depend on various factors including the nature of the mutilation (excision or infibulation), the types of tools used, the physical environment of the operation, the skill of the operator and the physical response of the operated individual at the time of the operation.
The consequences which begin immediately at the time of the operation can be grouped into long- and short-term. The latter manifests itself within a very short period extending from a few hours of the operation to some ten days. Long-term complications are life-long, irreversable and require medical attentions to mitigate their effects. One study, for example, found out that 83% of women whose genitals have been mutilated required medical attention at some time in their lives for problems related to the procedure they went under (African Env’t 1999). Lack of access to health facilities and ignorance of the cause of their suffering prevents most of the women to look for medical attention. Of all of the forms of FGM, excision and infibulations lead to severe complications
Immediate complications and consequences
- Shock from bleeding, pain and stress resulting from cutting very sensitive and delicate area of the genitalia without the use of anaesthetic.
- Bleeding or hemorrhage: the cutting of the blood vessels in the vulva (clitoral artery) during the operation leads to bleeding. Serious bleeding can also cause shock. Protracted bleeding can lead to anaemia and even death.
- Urinary retention from fear of pain, tissue swelling or injury of the urethra cause pain and discomfort which could easily lead to bladder and urinary tract infections.
- Infection caused by the use of unsterilized instruments in unhygienic environment may lead to other complications and even to death. Infections can also cause pelvic inflammation. It could result directly in blood poisoning and in having tetanus, and if untreated finally death may follow. There is also high risk of HIV transmission through the use of one instrument for multiple operations
- Damage to organs such as the anus, urethra and the bladder from inexperienced circumcisers
- In the case of infibulations, the consequences are compounded by frequent cutting and stitching. Thus, bleeding and the risk of haemorrhage, pain, risk of infection and urine retention are much severe and serious.
Infibulation and excision cause long-term complications of gynaecological, obsterics and urinary tracts. The main ones are the following (MGR 1992/3; African Env’t 1999; Toubia 1993; Smith 1995; Leye 1998; WHO)
- Repeated urinary infection because of the narrowing of the urinary outlet which prevents the complete emptying of urine from the bladder.
- Extremely painful menstruation due to the build up of urine and blood in the uterus leading to inflammation of the bladder and internal sexual organs.
- Formation of scars and keloid on the vulva wound. The growth of dermoid cysts which may result in abscesses.
- Formation of fistula – the rupture of the vagina and/or uterus.
- Vulval abscesses.
- Severe pain during intercourse which may consist of physical discomfort and psychological traumatisation.
- Difficult child birth which in case of long and obstructed labour may lead to foetal death and brain damage of the infant.
- In the case of infibulations acute and chronic pelvic infection leading to infertility and/or tubal pregnancy.
- Accumulation of blood and blood clots in the uterus and/or vagina.
Lets put an end to this.