What is Post FGM/C Reconstructive Surgery?

Welcome to our first April edition of the Global Woman Newsletter.  We have exciting stories this month.  We look forward to spending the month of April with you.

Dr. Pierre Foldes


More than twenty-five years ago, a French Urologist of Hungarian origin, Dr. Pierre Foldes began to operate on women who were in post-FGM/C (female genital mutilation or cutting) stages.  After he started this unique surgery, Dr. Foldes and his team performed approximately 2,938 such surgeries within a little more than a decade.  Dr. Foldes has had testimonial success since he began offering the surgery.

Naturally, there were many doubters about this type of surgery, including many other obstetricians.  There were some claims that once the clitoris and labia were removed, it was not possible to reconstruct them.  The doubters also argued that the women would not be able to gain genital sensitivity following the experience of FGM/C.  However women who have undergone the reconstructive surgery have expressed their happiness, and have gone on to enjoy the normalcy of life.

Female genital mutilation or cutting is the intentional removal of either all or part of the female genitalia for no medical reason.  Originated in Egypt, this practice has been in the world for more than five thousand years.  Eventually, FGM/C made its way to Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of the Middle East and Asia.  Today, this unnecessary archaic practice is known to have presence in parts of Europe, Australia and North America, including the United States.

FGM/C can cause a range of health problems, both short-term and long-term.  The kinds of problems that develop depend upon the degree of the cutting and the cleanliness of the tools used to perform the cutting.  In most countries, FGM/C is performed in unclean conditions where unsterilized scissors, razor blades or knives are used with no anesthesia.

Reconstructive surgery after a woman has experienced FGM/C is the technique of clitoral repair, opening the scar tissue, exposing the nerves buried underneath and grafting on fresh tissue.  This procedure is said to reduce pain associated with the results of FGM/C, and also allows women to regain clitoral sensitivity.  The surgery itself takes about an hour, and requires at least two days of pre-op and two additional days for post-operative observation.  Reportedly, the healing period is approximately six weeks.

Some women in the United States and other parts of the world are unaware that such a surgery exists.  The women who do know about this type of surgery think that it is not easily accessible to them.  Some women who wish to have the surgery think that they have to travel to France, while others think that it is far above their means to afford it.

More than eight years ago, an obstetrician/gynecologist in California, Dr. Marci Bowers began performing the reconstructive surgery on women in the U.S. who had experienced FGM/C.  After becoming interested in the type of surgery, Dr. Bowers traveled to France and studied under Dr. Pierre Foldes to learn the same techniques that Dr. Foldes had perfected.  Since then, Dr. Bowers has performed close to two hundred of such surgeries with success.

A year ago when Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation interviewed Dr. Bowers about the surgery, she had this to say, “When restoration is performed, the clitoris is found 100% of the time. True, there may be damage to the tip but the tip is, literally, the tip of the iceberg. Restoration is possible by not only dividing the infibulation (if present) but clearing the remaining clitoris of scar tissue and securing it to the surface skin. The sensory clitoral majority remains after FGM—fortunately, thanks to Dr. Pierre Foldes, there is now a technique to access those portions.”

According to Dr. Bowers, there are many potential benefits of restoration after FGM/C. Division of the infibulation (so-called defibulation) allows for less painful sexual interactions. More basic, it allows for the right of unobstructed urination, tampon placement and labors that do not result in horrific injury to the bladder and intestine.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation is committed to assisting women who need the surgery.  The organization launched a campaign last fall during its Walk To End FGM to raise funds specifically to send women to have the reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Bowers in Surgery

Please send all questions or comments to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org or 703-818-3750.