Is there a relationship between female genital mutilation/cutting and fistula? A statistical analysis using cross-sectional data from Demographic and Health Surveys in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Objectives: Literature on associations between female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and fistula points to a common belief that FGM/C predisposes women to developing fistula. This study explores this association using nationally representative survey data. Design: A secondary statistical analysis of cross-sectional data from Demographic and Health Surveys was conducted to explore the association between FGM/C and fistula. Setting: Sub-Saharan Africa. Participants: Women aged 15–49 years in Burkina Faso (n=17 087), Chad (n=17 719), Côte d’Ivoire (n=10 060), Ethiopia (n=14 070), Guinea (n=9142), Kenya (n=31 079), Mali (n=10 424), Nigeria (n=33 385), Senegal (n=15 688) and Sierra Leone (n=16 658). Main outcome measures: Fistula symptoms. Results: Multivariate logit modelling using pooled data from 10 countries showed that the odds of reporting fistula symptoms were 1.5 times (CI 1.06 to 2.21) higher for women whose genitals were cut and sewn closed than those who had undergone other types of FGM/C. Women who attended antenatal care (ANC) (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 0.51, CI 0.36 to 0.71) and those who lived in urban areas (AOR 0.62, CI 0.44 to 0.89) were less likely to report fistula symptoms than those who did not attend ANC or lived in rural areas. Conclusions: Severe forms of FGM/C (infibulation) may predispose women to fistula. Contextual and socioeconomic factors may increase the likelihood of fistula. Multisectoral interventions that concurrently address harmful traditional practices such as FGM/C and other contextual factors that drive the occurrence of fistula are warranted. Promotion of ANC utilisation could be a starting point in the prevention of fistulas.






Evidence to End FGM/C: Research to Help Girls and Women Thrive