Definition and Overview
Sometimes informally called cutting, clitoridectomy is the surgical removal of the clitoris, a highly sensitive button-like part of the female reproductive system used mainly to heighten sexual pleasure. It is found near the inner lips and on top of the opening of the urethra, an organ that connects the bladder to the vagina and helps facilitate the flow of urine. Despite the close proximity between these organs, the clitoris isn’t used for urination, and unlike the penis, it doesn’t have any opening.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Clitoris removal can be performed either for medical or non-medical reasons.
Under medical use, the clitoris may be cut if it is necrotic (or the tissue is dead) due to poor or failure of blood supply to the organ, the signs of which may begin to show on the outer lips of the vagina. It may also have to be removed if the clitoris or the organs and tissues near it have been damaged due to traumatic injury or if the patient is diagnosed with reproductive cancer, which may require the resection of certain parts to control, reduce, or prevent the spread of the disease.
One of the common reasons for the procedure is clitoris hypertrophy, which means the clitoris has become enlarged due a number of possible reasons including the intake of certain drugs or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), where the adrenal glands found near the kidneys produce either too much or very little of the sex hormone.
The non-medical use of the procedure may be due to aesthetic reasons or female genital mutilation (FGM), sometimes called female circumcision, a heatedly debated practice in certain parts of the world. In these places, the procedure is done as part of the rite of passage of young women or as a way of controlling sexual pleasure. The World Health Organization has already considered the practice, which affects over 200 million women from infancy to 15 years old, as a violation of human rights.
Because the clitoris can induce sexual pleasure, one of the biggest concerns of its removal is the loss of sexual sensation. Although many believe that the surgery can significantly reduce and even change a person’s sexual experience, some studies show that there’s not much difference between the feelings of pleasure of both cut and non-cut women and that the reduction or change of orgasm may be brought about by the side effects of the removal of the clitoris.
How Does the Procedure Work?
In a clitoris removal, the patient may be administered with general anaesthesia for maximum comfort and pain-free procedure. The feet are placed in the stirrups and the legs spread wide open to access the vagina. The end of the clitoris is then clamped to keep it steady while a surgical tool like a scalpel is used to remove it. The incision is then sutured along with the inner labia to hide the gap.
If the procedure is performed as part of an oncologic surgical treatment like vulvectomy (removal of the vulva), the surgeon may begin with a lymph node dissection to check for any sign of cancer before continuing with the procedure.
Possible Risks and Complications
Clitoris removal is a very delicate procedure because of its location and the possibility of injuring the surrounding tissues and organs, such as the urethra, that may result in serious bleeding or infection. If the procedure is performed to treat cancer, it does not guarantee that the disease won’t recur. Some women may also experience smelly vaginal discharges, pain during sexual intercourse, itchiness in the vagina, back pain, or hypersensitivity around the breast area.
New study shows female genital mutilation exposes women and babies to significant risk at childbirth" (Press release). World Health Organization. 2006-06-02.
Hoffman, Barbara (2012). Williams gynecology. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical. ISBN 9780071716727.