Doctors Concerned About Women Who’s Privates Have Been Mutilated

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By Victor Ochieng

The ancient practice of cutting off the female genitals to prevent stimulation is known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and is generally associated with the underdeveloped nations. However, the practice is fast presenting a challenge for U.S. doctors, who are being faced with a growing number of female patients who have undergone the procedure.

FGM is quite common in a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East. As the number of immigrants finding their way into the U.S. increases, the number of women who have gone through genital mutilation in the country also increases.

Some parents who still believe in the practice go as far as sending their children abroad for the procedure, understanding that FGM is illegal in the U.S. But what many don’t know is that it is still illegal to send someone elsewhere for the operation.

FGM is presenting doctors with a nightmare because since it is not practiced in the U.S., doctors are not trained on how to treat someone who has undergone it. It presents a challenge for women, too. Most women who have experienced FGM don’t want to visit doctors out of embarrassment.  As a result, several women have gone to see gynecologists, only to end up being subjects of stares and discomforting questions.

“I feel ashamed. The doctor has probably never seen anything like this. How am I supposed to explain it?” said a Zambian woman, Mariama Bojang, 25. She has avoided doctors, despite the fact that she has been suffering from abdominal pain since she was 10 years old.

According to a preliminary CDC report, close to 500,000 women in the U.S. have undergone or are likely to undergo FGM. The fear that many in the medical field have is that doctors and health personnel aren’t well equipped to deal with both the anatomical and emotional effects of the practice.

“More and more health providers are going to be taking care of women who’ve undergone F.G.M./C,” said Dr. Nawal Nour, the director of the African Women’s Health Center in Boston.

Dr. Nour says that with the cases increasing, health professionals have to be careful on how they handle patients.

“The worst thing a health care provider can do is wince or cringe or ask an inappropriate question,” Dr. Nour said. “It deters a patient from returning.”

29 countries in Africa and the Middle East have a high rate of the practice. In Somalia and Guinea, for example, up to 90 percent of all women have undergone FGM.

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