Female genital cutting is a procedure practiced primarily in some African and Asian countries. In this procedure, the clitoris, parts of the clitoris or even the labia of female babies or young women may be removed. In some cultures, a so-called infibulation is also performed, in which the vagina is also closed. This procedure is often performed on babies, but it can also affect toddlers and girls just before adulthood. If you were cut and are now pregnant, you need special medical care. You should therefore let all the people who looked after you know as soon as you can. If you are in distress because your daughter is to be cut, please contact a pregnancy counselling centre or the Early Help Network (Netzwerk der Frühen Hilfen) counselling centre. If they can't help you there directly, then you can get in touch with aid organisations that have a lot of experience with women who have experienced genital cutting. If you need help quickly or do not dare to go to a counselling centre, you can also call the Violence Against Women helpline. Women can call 08000 116 016 for advice in 17 languages.
The World Health Organization distinguishes four types of female genital cutting. In type I, the clitoral hood is removed. In many cases, the part of the clitoris that is visible to the outside is also removed. Part of the clitoris is removed in type II as well. In addition, the labia minora are completely or partially removed, sometimes the labia majora as well. Type III is what is known as infibulation. In this form of genital cutting, the clitoris and labia are completely or partially removed as well. The wound edges of the labia are then joined together. Not only sutures are used for this purpose, but in some cases also thorns or iron rings. The vaginal opening is closed except for a small hole. Menstrual blood and urine drain through this small opening. If a woman is closed in this way, her vagina must be partially opened before the first time she has sexual intercourse. When a child is born, it is then necessary to open the vagina completely. Category IV includes all practices of genital cutting that cannot be classified under types I-III.
When your vagina is closed, it presents challenges to the people who care for you during your pregnancy and when you give birth. It's harder for your gynaecologist or midwife to do your check-ups. They can't give you vaginal examinations. In addition, difficulties may arise during pregnancy and childbirth. You may suffer from frequent abdominal inflammation. This can lead to - in other words, your water could break too early. This frequent inflammation is due to the fact that your urine can't drain properly. The people who look after you during pregnancy want you and your child to be as comfortable as possible during delivery. They'll probably advise you to have what's called a defibulation. This will enlarge your vaginal entrance. This can prevent serious birth injuries, for example a deep perineal tear. Defibulation is often performed during childbirth. It would be a good idea to go to the antenatal clinic of the hospital where you want to give birth as early as possible. While you’re there, you can ask all your questions about giving birth in hospital and get advice. Sometimes you may also be advised to dilate your vagina in early pregnancy. Then the preventive examinations can also be carried out more easily. Remember, it’s your right to have a say. Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about your genital cutting and go over all the important steps in the prenatal care and birth process with them.
Female genital cutting is often defended as traditional. However, it is important to know that genital cutting can have severe psychological and health consequences and can even lead to death. The procedure is therefore prohibited in Germany. If people around you insist that your daughter should undergo genital cutting, you should turn to people you trust. This can be a midwife, for example. If you do not want to give your name and personal data, you can contact a telephone hotline or visit the Early Help Network (Netzwerk der Frühen Hilfen) counselling centre.
Also known as ‘female genital cutting’ or ‘female circumcision’, the official term for this process is female genital mutilation. That's the term used by the World Health Organization. They wish to emphasize that the procedure is serious and threatens the health of those who experience it. In the care and treatment of women, we speak of ‘circumcised’ or ‘cut’ patients. No woman can personally help this condition and should be treated respectfully. If you feel that you are being treated insensitively, you should talk to your doctor or midwife about it. You have the right to have the people treating you empathize with your situation.