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Coping and chronic psychosocial consequences of female genital mutilation in the Netherlands.

Ethn Health. 2012 Dec;17(6):677-95. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2013.771148.

Coping and chronic psychosocial consequences of female genital mutilation in the Netherlands.

Vloeberghs E, van der Kwaak A, Knipscheer J, van den Muijsenbergh M.

Research & Development Department , PHAROS – Knowledge and Advisory Centre on Refugees’ and Migrants’ Health , Utrecht , The Netherlands.

Objective. The study presented in this article explored psychosocial and relational problems of African immigrant women in the Netherlands who underwent female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), the causes they attribute to these problems – in particular, their opinions about the relationship between these problems and their circumcision – and the way they cope with these health complaints. Design. This mixed-methods study used standardised questionnaires as well as in-depth interviews among a purposive sample of 66 women who had migrated from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sierra Leone to the Netherlands. Data were collected by ethnically similar female interviewers; interviews were coded and analysed by two independent researchers. Results. One in six respondents suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and one-third reported symptoms related to depression or anxiety. The negative feelings caused by FGM/C became more prominent during childbirth or when suffering from physical problems. Migration to the Netherlands led to a shift in how women perceive FGM, making them more aware of the negative consequences of FGM. Many women felt ashamed to be examined by a physician and avoided visiting doctors who did not conceal their astonishment about the FGM. Conclusion. FGM/C had a lifelong impact on the majority of the women participating in the study, causing chronic mental and psychosocial problems. Migration made women who underwent FGM/C more aware of their condition. Three types of women could be distinguished according to their coping style: the adaptives, the disempowered and the traumatised. Health care providers should become more aware of their problems and more sensitive in addressing them.

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