Dozens of FGM victims came forward in Newham last year, new figures show
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Dozens of women suffering from female genital mutilation were seen for the first time by Newham doctors last year, new NHS figures show.
From April 2018 to March 2019, around 120 FGM victims were seen by health services in the Newham clinical commissioning group (CCG).
Of those, 75 were reporting their injuries for the first time.
Across England, more than 6,000 victims were seen by NHS services over the year.
Only approximate data is available to prevent identification of individual women.
FGM is where female genitals are removed, cut or injured for non-medical reasons. It is illegal in the UK and people carrying out or assisting with the procedure can be punished by up to 14 years in prison, even if it was abroad.
Experts and campaigners are calling for increased awareness of female genital mutilation warning signs among younger women and girls.
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Most girls are cut before they turn 15, but are often not identified or treated by the NHS until they are pregnant.
In Newham, most of the women seen in 2018 and 2019 were over 30.
According to Janet Fyle, FGM policy lead at the Royal College of Midwives, many pregnant women are not treated until they are already in labour and often require surgery before they can give birth.
According to the new figures, at least one woman seen by Newham's health services gave birth in the same appointment where FGM was identified or treated.
Ms Fyle added that daughters of women with FGM are at serious risk of becoming victims themselves.
She said: "We need to have a much more open dialogue with communities that practise FGM, and think seriously about how we talk to women in those communities.
"The women need to make the link between their health and its relationship to FGM by themselves, and that will make them think - do I want this for my daughter?"
The National FGM Centre, a partnership between children's charity Barnardo's and the Local Government Association, has raised concerns that doctors and nurses may not recognise the warning signs of FGM.
Leethen Bartholomew, the centre's head, called for more resources to train doctors and nurses to recognise the symptoms of FGM, and to collect more comprehensive data on the women and girls affected.