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What can be done to raise midwives' awareness of female genital mutilation?

02 September 2017
10 min read
Volume 25 · Issue 9


Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a safeguarding issue on which many midwives and health professionals in the UK have limited knowledge. This review synthesises the available literature and examines the resulting themes: cultural sensitivity, training, language and cultural differences, all of which can act as barriers to safeguarding women in maternity services. By understanding the effects of FGM, midwives in the areas where FGM is less prevalent will be better able to care for these women when they encounter them, which may be increasingly likely, as the numbers of women migrating to the UK grow.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is described by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) as the partial or total removal of the external genitalia as well as other non-medical injury to this region. FGM is physically and emotionally painful, and can cause an increased risk of both short and long term complications, including excessive bleeding, infections, psychological consequences, painful urination, menstrual and obstetric difficulties, HIV and death. FGM is performed for a range of cultural, religious and social reasons (Molloy, 2014). In countries such as Kenya and Sierra Leone, FGM may be performed as a rite of passage into womanhood, while in Egypt or Sudan FGM can be performed to preserve a girls' virginity (Boseley, 2014). FGM was made illegal in the UK by the Female Circumcision Act 1985, which was followed by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, which made it illegal to arrange for FGM to be performed on UK citizens or residents while they are in another country, whether or not FGM is legal in the destination country.

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