The consequences of female circumcision for health and sexuality: an update on the evidence

Cult Health Sex. 2005 Sep-Oct;7(5):443-61. doi: 10.1080/14789940500181495.


This systematic review of published sources between 1997 and 2005 shows that female circumcision is associated with some health consequences but that no statistically significant associations are documented for a number of health conditions. This is in part a result of the difficulty of designing studies on the more extensive operations (infibulation). The findings of the analysis can be summarized as follows: statistically higher risks are documented for some but not all types of infections; the evidence regarding urinary symptoms is inconclusive; the evidence on obstetric and gynecological complications is mixed: increased risks have been reported for some complications of labour and delivery but not others, and for some symptoms such as abdominal pain and discharge, but not others such as infertility or increased mortality of mother or infant. Concerning sexuality, most of the existing studies suffer from conceptual and methodological shortcomings, and the available evidence does not support the hypotheses that circumcision destroys sexual function or precludes enjoyment of sexual relations. This review highlights the difficulties of research on the health and sexuality consequences of FGC, underscores the importance of distinguishing between more and less extensive operations, and emphasizes the need to go beyond simple inventories of physical harm or frequencies of sexual acts.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Circumcision, Female / adverse effects*
  • Circumcision, Female / ethnology
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Genital Diseases, Female / etiology*
  • Genital Diseases, Female / prevention & control
  • Health Education / organization & administration
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / etiology
  • Preventive Health Services / organization & administration
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology*
  • Social Environment
  • Sudan
  • Women's Health*
  • Women's Rights