Menstruation and circumcision

Blood that can't come out or scars that are painful. Circumcision (or FGM) can make some symptoms worse during menstruation. We have listed some helpful tips, advice and information that might help. 

Bildtext: Lila foto på en kropp som sitter med benen i kors, axlarna och huvudet syns inte.

What is circumcision?

Removal or injury to parts of the genitals is called genital mutilation or circumcision. Both words mean the same thing. In this text, we will use the word circumcision.

Circumcision is performed in different ways around the world, and therefore the results may differ. If you have been circumcised, it may at times be hard to know what has been done to you. Some know exactly what has happened, while others know that something has been done to them, but not what.

The 4 types of circumcision

The various form of circumcision are divided into 4 different categories.

  • Type 1. When the clitoral hood has been removed and/or the clitoris has been damaged.
  • Type2. When the clitoris, glans, hood and the inner labias are damaged.
  • Type 3. Like Type 2 with the addition that the outer labias are also damaged and sewn together so that there is only one or several small holes left.
  • Type 4. When something has been done to create a wound or a scar. For example when a sharp object has been used to cut or pinch on or around the clitoris. It can also be when acid has been used to hurt the clitoral hood, glans or the vagina.

In Sweden, and in many other countries, circumcision is prohibited by law. It is banned because no one else should have the right to decide over your body. In Sweden, it is also illegal to plan a circumcision or ask someone to circumsise someone else. If you are living in Sweden, it is also illegal to travel to another country to perform a circumcision.

Read more about circumsion at youmo.se

Did you know?

Not all who have been circumcised suffer complications, but for those who do menstruation might be a really hard time.

How does menstrual bleeding work if you have been circumcised?

The bleeding during a menstrual period exits through the vaginal opening. If you are circumcised and have a smaller vaginal opening (several small holes or are almost completed stitched) your menstrual bleeding may take longer to exit. Sometimes a circumcision is discovered during menstruation, because it may be very painful when the menstruation exits the body.

Bildtext: Illustration av en menskopp och en tampong

Period supplies

  • If you you are circumcised and sewn togheter you can use pads to absorb the bleeding.
  • If you are circumcised but now sewn together you can use other types of hygiene products if you want. You can use tampons, a menstrual cup or pads depending on what feels comfortable to you. Try and find out what gives you the best experience.

4 things that can increase your period pain

If you are circumcised and stitched, you may experience pain during menstruation, both from your stomach (because of the uterus cramping) and at the vaginal opening where the blood is supposed to exit.

1. The blood is blocked 

What hurts is the bleeding being stopped inside of the opening of the vagina. If blood gathers at the same place, it hardens and becomes lumpy, - the blood coagulates. When the menstrual blood coagulates, it may cause a blockade inside the vagina. Some say that they need to use their fingers to remove the thickened vlood or lumps with their fingers to let the rest of the menstrual blood out. Some also say that they feel ill, vomit or have back or stomach pains when the menstruation exits.

2. Longer periods of bleeding

For someone who has been stitched, the menstruation can last for more days. That is because the blood exits at a slower pace because less blood leaves at a time.

3. Painful scars 

Those who have been circumcised but not stitched can also feel pain at the vaginal opening, because your circumcision may have left scars. Some say that the scarring hurt more during menstruation. Perhaps due to pressure from the hygiene products but we do not know exactly why this is.

4. Anxiety and painful memories

When your period arrives and it is painful, it may bring back memories from the circumcision. Those memories do not have to, but still may, make you feel depressed, sad, worried or anxious. If that happens, it may be good to find some to talk to, such as the school nurse, councellour or someone at the youth reception.

Bildtext: Foto på cool tjej med flätor i håret vid ett fönster.

Circumcision - an obstacle at school?

Some of those who are circumcised say that they want to stay home from school during their period. Sometimes for several days, because it hurts or because it is hard to remain in the bathrooms for long. But your menstruation should not stop you from going to school. If you are in pain you may need good painkillers, and if that does not help seek medical advice. There is nothing that stops you from taking part in the physical education at school during menstruation, but if you cannot use a tampon or menstrual cup, you should not go swimming. Tell your teacher what is the matter so that the school knows why you cannot take part in everything.

4 other reasons get help

  • Difficulties to urinate 
  • Infections in your genital area 
  • Pain during sex.

Get help here:

  • You shouldn't have to suffer from pain during the menstruation - there is help to get! If your menstruation is painful or makes you feel unwell in other ways you can get help. If you are stitched and are in pain a gynecologist can help through surgery to open you up again. The vaginal opening is widened, so that menstrual blood and urine exits more easily. That may also make it easier for you to have sex in various ways, both with yourself and with a partner if you want to.
     
  • You can also use painkillers to medicate the pain, starting with the nonprescription ones in the pharmacy. If those don't work you can ask a gynecologist for prescription ones that works better for you.
     
  • There is a specialist hospital for circumcised people at the Södersjukhuset/Söder hospital in Stockholm that welcomes everyone, it is called AMEL-mottagningen. If you live somewhere else in the country and want help you can start by seeing a local midwife at the youth reception, gynecologist or a doctor at a healthcare centre. You are in your right to bring a friend or someone else that you feel comfortable with when you attend healthcare meetings.