Female genital mutilation (FGM) Signs, symptoms and effects
A girl or woman who's had FGM may:
- have difficulty walking, sitting or standing
- spend longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet
- 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.
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.
What to look out for before FGM happens
A girl at immediate risk of FGM may not know what's going to happen. But she might talk about:
- being taken 'home' to visit family
- a special occasion to 'become a woman'
- an older female relative visiting the UK.
She 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.
The 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.
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.
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Our research and services help prevent abuse and support families. Please help us to stop children suffering in silence.
It's Time to demand change
Up to 90% of children who've been abused will develop mental health issues by the time they're 18.