Objective: To examine the association between female genital cutting and frequency of sexual and gynaecological symptoms among a cohort of cut versus uncut women in Edo State of Nigeria.
Design: Cross sectional study.
Setting: Women attending family planning and antenatal clinics at three hospitals in Edo State, South-south Nigeria.
Population: 1836 healthy premenopausal women.
Methods: The sample included 1836 women. Information about type of female genital cutting was based on medical exams while a structured questionnaire was used to elicit information on the women's sociodemographic characteristics, their ages of first menstruation (menarche), first intercourse, marriage and pregnancy, sexual history and experiences of symptoms of reproductive tract infections. Associations between female genital cutting and these correlates of sexual and gynaecologic morbidity were analysed using univariate and multivariate logistic regression and Cox models.
Main outcome measures: Frequency of self-reported orgasm achieved during sexual intercourse and symptoms of reproductive tract infections.
Results: Forty-five percent were circumcised and 71% had type 1, while 24% had type 2 female genital cutting. No significant differences between cut and uncut women were observed in the frequency of reports of sexual intercourse in the preceding week or month, the frequency of reports of early arousal during intercourse and the proportions reporting experience of orgasm during intercourse. There was also no difference between cut and uncut women in their reported ages of menarche, first intercourse or first marriage in the multivariate models controlling for the effects of socio-economic factors. In contrast, cut women were 1.25 times more likely to get pregnant at a given age than uncut women. Uncut women were significantly more likely to report that the clitoris is the most sexually sensitive part of their body (OR = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.26-0.47), while cut women were more likely to report that their breasts are their most sexually sensitive body parts (OR = 1.91; 95% CI = 1.51-2.42). Cut women were significantly more likely than uncut women to report having lower abdominal pain (OR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.11-2.14), yellow bad-smelling vaginal discharge (OR = 2.81, 95% CI = 1.54-5.09), white vaginal discharge (OR = 1.65, 95% CI = 1.09-2.49) and genital ulcers (OR = 4.38, 95% CI 1.13-17.00).
Conclusion: Female genital cutting in this group of women did not attenuate sexual feelings. However, female genital cutting may predispose women to adverse sexuality outcomes including early pregnancy and reproductive tract infections. Therefore, female genital cutting cannot be justified by arguments that suggest that it reduces sexual activity in women and prevents adverse outcomes of sexuality.