Care for infibulated women giving birth in Norway: an anthropological analysis of health workers' management of a medically and culturally unfamiliar issue

Med Anthropol Q. 2006 Dec;20(4):516-44. doi: 10.1525/maq.2006.20.4.516.


The focus of this article is on Norwegian health care workers' experience and management of birth care of women who have undergone infibulation. Because infibulation is the most extensive form of female genital cutting, infibulated women experience a higher risk of birth complications, and health workers generally experience delivery care for this group as challenging. Infibulated women, who come from recently arrived immigrant groups, are a challenge to the predominant Norwegian birth philosophy of "natural childbirth" and the positive evaluation of everything considered natural. The challenges relate to a mixture of technical know-how and a complex set of interpretations of central cultural elements of gender, nature, health, and gender equity. The findings suggest that a combination of taboo, silence, limited knowledge, and emotional difficulty along with a wish to be culture sensitive may at times prove counterproductive to giving the best help. Health care workers often seem to impose "imagined" cultural values on infibulated women, rather than clarifying them through personal communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Circumcision, Female / adverse effects*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods
  • Delivery, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery / methods
  • Norway
  • Pregnancy
  • Somalia / ethnology