A qualitative study of women's lived experience after deinfibulation in the UK

Midwifery. 2013 Feb;29(2):154-8. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2011.12.005. Epub 2012 Oct 17.


Objective: to explore women's experiences of deinfibulation and its aftermath.

Design: a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with data collection via audio-recording and field notes. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) method for qualitative data analysis.

Setting: recruitment for the study was carried out in an African Well Women Clinic in London, United Kingdom.

Participants: there were nine women participants of Somali and Eritrean origin who had Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) type III previously and underwent deinfibulation between January 2008 and September 2009.

Findings: key themes identified were the cultural meaning and social acceptability of deinfibulation; the consequences of deinfibulation within marital relationships; feelings about the appearance of genitalia post deinfibulation and thoughts on reinfibulation.

Conclusions: marital factors and stability of the relationship influence the experience of deinfibulation. Those women who said they had discussed deinfibulation with their husband in advance, and that he had agreed to the procedure, reported less problems afterwards. Single women who had deinfibulation before marriage may face more difficulties in terms of social acceptability within their community.

Implications for practice: sensitivity to social consequences of deinfibulation is important as well as recognition that these consequences vary. When deinfibulation is carried out for medical purposes some women may appreciate the offer of an official letter from a health-care practitioner confirming the medical nature of the procedure. The data suggests that deinfibulated women may dislike the new appearance of their genitalia; therefore, the practicality of performing a concurrent minor cosmetic surgery with deinfibulation procedure may need to be examined. The need for further research conducted in women's primary language is pressing and should explore issues such as the situation of single women, men's knowledge of the complications associated with FGM and the benefits of deinfibulation for infibulated women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Circumcision, Female* / methods
  • Circumcision, Female* / psychology
  • Circumcision, Female* / rehabilitation
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / psychology
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications* / ethnology
  • Postoperative Complications* / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Women's Health / ethnology
  • Women's Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Rights