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Doctors need better understanding of FGM

Thursday 10th December 2015
Doctors need to improve their knowledge of female genital mutilation, according to experts. Image: iStock/daizuokin
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Doctors all over the world need to garner a better understanding of female genital mutilation (FGM) and how affected patients should be treated, according to experts on the subject.

A study conducted by doctors at the University of Sydney and the Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney has found that doctors and other medical professionals are in need of new guidelines and more resources to help them to provide the best possible mental and physical care for women who have been subjected to FGM.

Figures indicate that between 100 million and 140 million females have been affected by the practice worldwide. It involves either the full or partial removal of the female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons.

The procedure is typically conducted on females aged from as young as one-month-old to 15-years-old and can have life-long painful consequences, such as frequent urinary infections and psychological trauma and can also affect women's ability to give birth.

Despite this, the research led to the discovery that doctors' knowledge of FGM and how victims should be treated varies significantly throughout the world, as well as depending on the medical setting they work in.

The study involved the review of 18 previous research papers on the subject, finding that gynaecologists, obstetricians and midwives tended to know more about FGM than other doctors and nurses. In fact, none of the studies had involved paediatricians, despite the fact the procedure is often carried out on children.

Lead author of the study Dr Yvonne Zurynski of the University of Sydney stated: "This is regrettable because paediatricians and GPs are key health professionals who see children and may be involved in the management of complications of FGM and, most importantly, in the prevention of FGM."

Traditionally, FGM has been more of a problem in developing countries, but it affects women all over the world, and the biggest gaps in knowledge were in high-income countries, indicating that action needs to be taken to educate doctors everywhere about the complications of FGM.

Written by James Puckle

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