While Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) began to tally births by women with female genital mutilation (FGM) only recently, a few hundred circumcised women are estimated to have given birth in Finland last year alone, national broadcaster Yle reported.
Päivi Polo, the head of the women's clinic at Turku University Hospital, admitted to seeing at least one or two FGM survivors every week.
"Last year, we had 50 circumcised women giving birth in Turku, and we have to be able to serve circumcised women in the best way possible," Polo told Yle.
According to the Finnish national broadcaster, Finnish doctors have become increasingly knowledgeable in dealing with the complications of FGM, an excruciatingly painful and humiliating procedure in which some or all of a woman's or girl's external genital organs are cut or damaged, in accordance with cultural beliefs. Apart from being extremely traumatic, FGM can cause serious medical complications, ranging from urinary tract problems to infections and extremely painful or obstructed deliveries.
Seija Grenman, Polo's predecessor at Turku University Hospital, currently serves as vice president for the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). She stressed that medical practitioners should be careful not to pass any judgement on women with FGM, even though the practice is illegal in Finland. Out of respect for patients, Finnish medical practitioners thus use the more palatable word 'circumcision' instead of the brutal 'mutilation.'
Female genital mutilation is most prevalent in the Islamic nations of the African continent. In Finland, Somali women are most likely to suffer from FGM.
"Many are aware of the fact that the majority of Somali women are cut. And some doctors know how to approach the issue of how FGM complicates labor and delivery with the patient," Roda Hassan, a Turku city councilwoman and Somali interpreter, told Yle. Hassan called circumcision a "male tool for ensuring that girls remain untouched before marriage."
According to Polo and Grenman, most circumcised women in Finland underwent this procedure before arriving in Scandinavia, although girls born in Finland may also be subjected to FGM.
"It can happen without the parents' even knowing about it if the girls are visiting relatives back home," Polo explained.
Grenman added that suspicions of planned FGM have to be reported to both the police and child welfare authorities.
"It's not up to a three or seven-year-old girl to decide if she'll be cut or not," Roda Hassan concluded.
The share of foreign-born residents of Finland has risen from 2.7 percent of the country's population of 5.5 million in 2011 to 6.8 percent in 2017.