Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a harmful traditional practice deeply rooted in 28 Sub-Saharan African countries. Its prevalence in The Gambia is 76.3%. The objective of this study was to gain precise information on the long-term health consequences of FGM/C in The Gambia as well as on its impact on delivery and on the health of the newborns.
Data were collected from 588 female patients examined for antenatal care or delivery in hospitals and health centers of the Western Health Region, The Gambia. The information collected, both through a questionnaire and medical examination, included sociodemographic factors, the presence or not of FGM/C, the types of FGM/C practiced, the long-term health consequences of FGM/C, complications during delivery and for the newborn. Odds ratios, their 95% confidence intervals, and P values were calculated.
The prevalence of patients who had undergone FGM/C was 75.6% (type I: 75.6%; type II: 24.4%). Women with type I and II FGM/C had a significantly higher prevalence of long-term health problems (eg, dysmenorrhea, vulvar or vaginal pain), problems related to anomalous healing (eg, fibrosis, keloid, synechia), and sexual dysfunction. Women with FGM/C were also much more likely to suffer complications during delivery (perineal tear, obstructed labor, episiotomy, cesarean, stillbirth) and complications associated with anomalous healing after FGM/C. Similarly, newborns were found to be more likely to suffer complications such as fetal distress and caput of the fetal head.
This study shows that FGM/C is associated with a variety of long-term health consequences, that women with FGM/C are four times more likely to suffer complications during delivery, and the newborn is four times more likely to have health complications if the parturient has undergone FGM/C. These results highlight for the first time the magnitude of consequences during delivery and for the newborn, associated with FGM/C in The Gambia.