Tubal ligation, which is commonly referred to as “tubal sterilization” or “having your tubes tied,” is a permanent form of birth control. Women who no longer wish to have children may opt for the procedure. It's important to note that though it's extremely effective at preventing pregnancy, it doesn't protect women from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The procedure is fairly common and usually covered by health insurance. It is estimated that 700,000 tubal ligation procedures occur each year in the U.S.
Each month, an egg travels from an ovary down the attached fallopian tube. If a woman has unprotected sex, the sperm travels up the tube and fertilization may occur. Tubal ligation prevents fertilization from occurring.
During a tubal ligation, the OB/GYN cuts, clips or burns the fallopian tubes. The physician can also completely remove the tube. This prevents sperm from traveling up the tubes and an egg from traveling down. Women who have a tubal ligation still get regular periods.
It is usually an outpatient procedure, though it can be performed following a C-section or after childbirth. Tubal ligation is permanent; reversing the procedure is difficult and may not result in a successful pregnancy.
There are many different reasons why a woman might choose to get a tubal ligation. You may want to have sex without worrying about getting pregnant, you might not want to deal with the side effects of hormonal birth control or getting pregnant might put your health at risk.
Some women don’t want to pass on a genetic condition, while other women (along with their partner) might decide that their family is complete and they are done having children. It’s a permanent decision that you must make for yourself.
There are several different types of tubal ligation.
During this procedure, an electrical current is applied to the fallopian tubes to cauterize different sections. These sections are typically 2-3 centimeters long.
The portion of the fallopian tube closest to the ovary is cut and removed.
Electric current is used to cauterize the fallopian tube together. The current is then applied further to damage the remainder of the tubes.
The fallopian tubes are doubled over and a silicone band is placed over the doubled portion.
Two sutures are placed on the fallopian tubes and then the section between the tubes is removed. The ends of the tubes are then attached to the back of the uterus and connective tissues.
Similar to the tubal ring, a permanent clip is applied and fastened to the doubled portion of the fallopian tubes.
A portion of the tube is doubled up and a suture is placed in the tubes. The ends are then cauterized with an electrical current.
During the tubal ligation procedure, you will be placed under anesthesia so you don't experience any pain. An anesthesiologist will monitor the anesthesia to ensure your comfort.
Outpatient tubal ligation requires that a small amount of gas is inserted to inflate the abdomen. A laparoscope is then inserted into the abdomen and the procedure is performed. Two other small incisions might be made for medical instruments to go through the abdominal wall. The tubal ligation will then be performed.
Though tubal ligation is highly successful for most women, it does have some risks. Fewer than 1 out of every 100 women might get pregnant after the procedure. Younger women have a greater chance of the procedure not working than older women. Women who do get pregnant after having a tubal ligation might experience an ectopic pregnancy.
Other risks of tubal ligation include an adverse reaction to the anesthesia, infection, abdominal or pelvic pain that doesn't go away after healing or damage to the bladder, bowel, or major blood vessels. Having diabetes, being obese, or having a history of abdominal surgery puts you at risk of complications.
After the procedure, the gas will be removed and you will be woken from anesthesia. Those who get the procedure performed typically go home within a few hours. Those who opt to get a tubal ligation following childbirth or a C-section recover in the hospital. No extra time is normally needed in the hospital following the procedure.
Tubal ligation recovery typically takes 1-3 weeks after the procedure. It may take longer following a C-section or childbirth. You may experience some pain at the incision site along with abdominal pain, dizziness, fatigue, shoulder pain, or gas. These side effects should go away with time.
You can usually bathe after 48 hours, taking care not to rub or pull at the incision site. Take it easy and avoid heavy lifting, exercise, and sex until your doctor advises you to resume normal activities.
If healing seems to be taking too long or you experience a fever over 100.4 degrees, fainting, bleeding at the incision site, severe pain, or discharge from the incision site, talk with your OB/GYN immediately.
If you think that tubal ligation might be the right choice for you, talk with your OB/GYN today. Your doctor will be able to perform an exam and determine if the procedure is right for you and explain any additional concerns you may have.