Kathmandu, June 3 :

A new study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that women who have had Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), often referred to as ‘female circumcision’, are more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth and their babies are more likely to die.

Complications during childbirth increase with the severity of the FGM, according to a press release issued by the WHO here today. FGM is a common practice in a number of countries. It involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or deliberate injury to other female reproductive organs, both for cultural or non-therapeutic reasons. Worldwide, over 100 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone FGM.

In the case of caesarean births, women subjected to most serious form of FGM will need, on average, 30 per cent more incisions as compared to those who have not had any FGM. Similarly, there is a 70 per cent increase in postpartum haemorrhage among those women who have underwent FGM as compared to those who have not. “It is evident from this study the women who have been subject to FGM have significantly greater chance of having complications in their deliveries,” said Joy Phumaphi, Assistant Director-General, Family and Community Health, WHO. “We must support communities in their efforts to ditch the practice and to improve care for those who have undergone FGM. WHO is totally opposed to FGM being carried out by medical personnel.”

FGM also endangers the lives of the babies during childbirth. The mortality rates of babies during and immediately after birth is also much higher for those born to mothers with FGM.

“This research was carried out in hospitals where the obstetric staff are used to dealing with women who have undergone FGM. The consequences for the countless women and babies who deliver at home without the help of experienced staff are likely to be even worse,” added WHO’s Dr Paul Van Look, Director of the Special Programme for Human Reproduction Research (HRP) that carried out the study.

The study involved 28,393 women at 28 obstetric centres in six countries where FGM is common — Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.  FGM is generally performed on girls under 10 years of age and leads to varying amounts of scarring of the genital.