Women who are looking for a permanent form of birth control may choose to have a tubal ligation, also known as getting your "tubes tied" or female sterilization. This surgical procedure to make a woman sterile is very effective at preventing pregnancy, with a failure rate as low as 0.4%.
What Is It?
A tubal ligation is a surgical procedure whereby a woman's fallopian tubes are cut, clamped, blocked or tied to prevent her eggs from traveling down to her uterus. It also blocks the sperm from traveling along the tube to meet the egg. In some cases, a woman may choose to have a hysterectomy. This is when the entire uterus (and possibly the fallopian tubes, ovaries and/or cervix) is removed. Unlike a tubal ligation, a hysterectomy is not reversible.
How it is Done
Tubal ligations are usually done nowadays through laparoscopic surgery. This type of surgery involves making a small incision just under your navel and inserting small, thin instruments through a tiny tube to perform the procedure. The operation can be done under general or local anesthetic and is usually an outpatient procedure. In some cases, a hospital stay of one night may be required. Women can usually return to their normal activities after a week.
In 2002, a new, non-surgical method of blocking the fallopian tubes was put on the market. Essure has the same effectiveness rate as surgical sterilization and the procedure can be done in your doctor's office. This method of tubal ligation involves having a small coil placed into your fallopian tubes thereby creating a barrier. It takes between three and six months before this type of tubal ligation becomes effective. To have the barriers removed, though, will require surgery. Therefore, this method of tubal ligation should be considered just as permanent a solution as surgical sterilization.
Risks of Tubal Ligation
As with any type of surgery, there are risks involved with having your tubes tied, including infection and uterine perforation. Additionally, women who have had their tubes tied and become pregnant are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy. Other possible risks associated with having your tubes tied include menstrual cycle disturbances and gynecological problems.
While a tubal ligation is an effective way of preventing pregnancy, it offers absolutely no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Therefore, it will still be necessary to use condoms unless you are in a relationship with someone that has tested negative for STDs.
The initial cost of a tubal ligation can be expensive, ranging between $1,000 and $3,000. However, because the effects are permanent and long lasting, it may be a more cost-effective solution for some women. Some private insurance companies may also cover some of the cost. Check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered.
For women that are sure that they do not want any more children, or any children at all, having a tubal ligation can be a successful means of birth control. Although tubal ligation reversal surgery is available, all women should consider having their tubes tied as a permanent solution. Therefore, it is best to take your time and talk with your doctor as well as your partner so that you can be sure that this is the right decision for you.
For more information about tubal ligation, chat with other women in our birth control forum.