Side effects of female genital mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure performed on a woman or girl to alter or injure her genitalia for non-medical reasons. It most often involves the partial or total removal of her external genitalia. FGM is a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights.

Here are the side effects of FGM;

Infections, including a greater chance of acquiring HIV

The possibility for infections exists both at the time of cutting and for years afterwards. Oftentimes, FGM is carried out as part of a community ceremony where a group of girls of the same age are cut at the same time. One razor is often used to cut multiple girls, presenting the possibility HIV transmission. If the cut becomes contaminated, infections can also occur in the days after the procedure.


Along with the potential for infections, women lose a lot of blood when they’re cut. This is most acute at the time of cutting, but due to the location of the cuts, some women experience irritation while they’re walking or using the bathroom. This can prolong the healing process and lead to anemia, a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Anemia causes fatigue, dizziness, and lightheartedness which are severe enough to interfere with a woman’s daily life.

Greater risk of fetal death and obstetric fistula

Women who have experienced FGM, sometimes already at risk for infertility and miscarriage from other diseases or malnutrition, are also more likely to have a stillborn baby or develop an obstetric fistula. These can both happen when the vaginal opening is too small for a baby to pass through, as is sometimes the case with FGM. Prolonged labor can lead to suffocation or injury by contractions for the baby and the mother may develop a fistula, or a hole or tear between the birth canal and her bladder or intestines. This can cause leakage of urine and fecal matter, leading to infections, social isolation, and shame. It is possible for a mother to develop a fistula and lose her baby during birth.

Psychological issues

There are many psychological issues reported in relation to FGM. Girls can develop behavioral issues after the procedure as a result of the profound pain and sometimes deceit from the people they love and trust. They may be less willing to listen to their parents or teachers. Others find it difficult or impossible to deal with the disfigurement of their bodies. Some women experience sexual dysfunction, such as painful sex, lack of desire, bleeding, or inability to experience penetration as a result of FGM and its associated infections. This is especially distressing to women who want to have a healthy and intimate relationship with their partners and for women who wish to have children.

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