J Sex Med. 2017 Aug;14(8):977-990. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.05.016. Epub 2017 Jun
Reasons for and Experiences With Surgical Interventions for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): A Systematic Review
Berg RC, Taraldsen S, Said MA, Sørbye IK, Vangen S
BACKGROUND: Because female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) leads to changes in normal genital anatomy and functionality, women are increasingly seeking surgical interventions for their FGM/C-related concerns. AIM: To conduct a systematic review of empirical quantitative and qualitative research on interventions for women with FGM/C-related complications. METHODS: We conducted systematic searches up to May 2016 in 16 databases to obtain references from different disciplines. We accepted all study designs consisting of girls and women who had been subjected to FGM/C and that examined a reparative intervention for a FGM/C-related concern. We screened the titles, abstracts, and full texts of retrieved records for relevance. Then, we assessed the methodologic quality of the included studies and extracted and synthesized the study data. OUTCOMES: All outcomes were included. RESULTS: Of 3,726 retrieved references, 71 studies including 7,291 women were eligible for inclusion. We identified three different types of surgical intervention: defibulation or surgical separation of fused labia, excision of a cyst with or without some form of reconstruction, and clitoral or clitoral-labial reconstruction. Reasons for seeking surgical interventions consisted of functional complaints, sexual aspirations, esthetic aspirations, and identity recovery. The most common reasons for defibulation were a desire for improved sexual pleasure, vaginal appearance, and functioning. For cyst excision, cystic swelling was the main reason for seeking excision; for reconstruction, the main reason was to recover identity. Data on women’s experiences with a surgical intervention are sparse, but we found that women reported easier births after defibulation. Our findings also suggested that most women were satisfied with defibulation (overall satisfaction = 50-100%), typically because of improvements in their sexual lives. Conversely, the results suggested that defibulation had low social acceptance and that the procedure created distress in some women who disliked the new appearance of their genitalia. Most women were satisfied with clitoral reconstruction, but approximately one third were dissatisfied with or perceived a worsening in the esthetic look. CLINICAL TRANSLATION: The information health care professionals give to women who seek surgical interventions for FGM/C should detail the intervention options available and what women can realistically expect from such interventions. STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS: The systematic review was conducted in accordance with guidelines, but there is a slight possibility that studies were missed. CONCLUSION: There are some data on women’s motivations for surgery for FGM/C-related concerns, but little is known about whether women are satisfied with the surgery, and experiences appear mixed.
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