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Third of UK midwives see FGM cases shows new survey

Thursday, 9th February 2012

RCM expresses concern about level of female genital mutilation in the UK

A third of midwives in the UK have cared for women who have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) according to a new survey from the Royal College of Midwives published this week, It is estimated that 66,000 women in the UK are affected by Female Genital Mutilation and that up to 24,000 girls in the UK are at risk from FGM.

Conducted late last year, the survey of over 1700 midwives also showed that almost a quarter (24%) of hospital Trusts do not collect information abut FGM cases. The survey also suggested that over a fifth (22.2%) of Trusts do not have clinical guidelines for maternity staff looking after women who have undergone FGM.

The survey shows that there is a pressing need for more training and awareness-raising with midwives about FGM. It also revealed a major issue about referral processes for women who have FGM with over half (55.3%) of those surveyed saying that they did not know where to refer women with FGM for specialist services. A large majority (84.7%) of respondents had also not received any training on FGM in the previous year.  However, over two-thirds (70%) of midwives are aware of the UK law around FGM.

FGM can have a major impact on women who suffer it, including long term consequences for their reproductive health, chronic pain, infection, infertility, and in some cases death. The psychological effect can range from severe psychological trauma, such as anxiety and depression and post traumatic stress shock syndrome. Research is starting to show that that girls and women who have undergone FGM are likely to have the same levels of post traumatic stress disorder similar to adults who suffered abuse as children.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “It worries me greatly that so many UK midwives are seeing cases of FGM, and I am concerned about the scale and extent of it in this country.
“We must take a zero tolerance line on FGM and do all we can to see it stopped in the UK and elsewhere. It is a violation of a woman’s human rights, and there is a real need to raise awareness about the damage FGM can do to women within the communities that practice it. We must focus on protecting the current generation of girls and young women.”

The survey and report can be viewed at http://www.rcm.org.uk/college/your-career/information-services/.
For more information contact the RCM Press Office on 020 7312 3456, pressofficer@rcm.org.uk.

Notes to editors

The survey was self-selecting and all responses were completed online. A total of 1, 756 midwives completed the survey.

The Royal College of Midwives is the voice of midwifery. We are the UK’s only trade union and professional organisation led by midwives for midwives. The vast majority of the midwifery profession are our members. The RCM promotes midwifery, quality maternity services and professional standards. We support and represent our members individually and collectively in all four UK countries.  We influence on behalf of our members and for the interests of the women and families for which they care.  For more information visit the RCM website at www.rcm.org.uk.