Female genital mutilation (FGM) Signs, symptoms and effects
A girl at immediate risk of FGM may not know what's going to happen. But she might talk about or you may become aware of:
- a long holiday abroad or going 'home' to visit family
- relative or cutter visiting from abroad
- a special occasion or ceremony to 'become a woman' or get ready for marriage
- a female relative being cut – a sister, cousin, or an older female relative such as a mother or aunt.
Signs a teacher or school may notice
- A family arranging a long break abroad during the summer holidays.
- Unexpected, repeated or prolonged absence from school.
- Academic work suffering.
A child may ask a teacher or another adult for help if she suspects FGM is going to happen or she may run away from home or miss school.
Regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales must report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s to the police (Home Office, 2016).
Find out more about the legal duty on schools in England and Wales to report cases of FGM on our legislation, guidance and policy page.
Indicators FGM may have taken place
A girl or woman who's had female genital mutilation (FGM) may:
- have difficulty walking, standing or sitting
- spend longer in the bathroom or toilet
- appear withdrawn, anxious or depressed
- have unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
- be particularly reluctant to undergo normal medical examinations
- ask for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.
The physical effects of FGM
FGM can be extremely painful and dangerous. It can cause:
- severe pain
- infection such as tetanus, HIV and hepatitis B and C
- organ damage
- blood loss and infections that can cause death in some cases.
Listen: "Hadas's story"
Hadas experienced FGM when she was just a few months old. Listen to Hadas talk about how it has affected her life, and why she believes FGM must stop.
Long-term effects of FGM
Girls and women who have had FGM may have problems that continue through adulthood, including:
- difficulties urinating or incontinence
- frequent or chronic vaginal, pelvic or urinary infections
- menstrual problems
- kidney damage and possible failure
- cysts and abscesses
- pain when having sex
- complications during pregnancy and childbirth
- emotional and mental health problems.
Find out more about effects on the NHS Choices website.
More about FGM
Who is affected by FGM
Female genital mutilation (FGM) can happen at any age before getting married or having a baby. Some girls are babies when FGM is carried out.
Prevent and protect
How to help keep children safe from female genital mutilation (FGM).
Legislation, policy and guidance
Legislation, policy and guidance about female genital mutilation (FGM).
Facts and statistics
Facts and statistics about female genital mutilation (FGM).
What you can do
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