Objective: The study presented in this article explored psychosocial and relational problems of African immigrant women in The Netherlands who underwent female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), the causes they attribute to these problems--in particular, their opinions about the relationship between these problems and their circumcision--and the way they cope with these health complaints.
Design: This mixed-methods study used standardised questionnaires as well as in-depth interviews among a purposive sample of 66 women who had migrated from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sierra Leone to The Netherlands. Data were collected by ethnically similar female interviewers; interviews were coded and analysed by two independent researchers.
Results: One in six respondents suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and one-third reported symptoms related to depression or anxiety. The negative feelings caused by FGM/C became more prominent during childbirth or when suffering from physical problems. Migration to the Netherlands led to a shift in how women perceive FGM, making them more aware of the negative consequences of FGM. Many women felt ashamed to be examined by a physician and avoided visiting doctors who did not conceal their astonishment about the FGM.
Conclusion: FGM/C had a lifelong impact on the majority of the women participating in the study, causing chronic mental and psychosocial problems. Migration made women who underwent FGM/C more aware of their condition. Three types of women could be distinguished according to their coping style: the adaptives, the disempowered and the traumatised. Health care providers should become more aware of their problems and more sensitive in addressing them.