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
- an older female relative visiting the UK a special visitor, 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.
Things you may notice
If you're worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour.
- suddenly behaves differently
- problems sleeping
- eating disorders
- wets the bed
- soils clothes
- takes risks
- misses school
- changes in eating habits
- obsessive behaviour
- thoughts about suicide
Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse.
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.
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 than normal 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- appear withdrawn, anxious or depressed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.
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.