How does tubal sterilization work?
Tubal sterilization is also called tubal ligation. It is a form of permanent birth control for women. During conception, the ovaries release the eggs into the fallopian tubes. The sperm enters the vagina, uterus and then fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg. Following fertilization in the fallopian tubes, the fertilized egg leaves the fallopian tubes and moves into the uterus and implants in the uterine wall, where the fetus develops.
Tubal sterilization works to permanently prevent pregnancy by cutting and tying or clipping the fallopian tubes, hence preventing the egg from traveling from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes. It also blocks the sperm from entering the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg. Reversal surgery may be attempted, but the surgery is invasive and not usually effective. Tubal sterilization does not affect the menstrual cycle.
A woman can undergo tubal sterilization at any time, including right after normal childbirth, cesarean delivery or along with other abdominal surgeries. The best time to undergo tubal sterilization is following childbirth or combined with other abdominal or pelvic surgeries. Another alternative to tubal sterilization, which is also permanent, is hysteroscopic sterilization that involves the doctor placing a small coil into the fallopian tubes that causes scar tissue to form and blocks the tubes.
How is tubal sterilization performed?
Before the procedure
The woman would have to undergo a pregnancy test to ensure she is not pregnant. If the woman is pregnant, she may discuss her options whether to continue the pregnancy before undergoing sterilization. Routine blood and radiological tests would be performed to assess fitness for surgery.
During the procedure
The procedure is performed under anesthesia. The procedure is usually performed laparoscopically. Two to three small incisions are made in the abdomen under the umbilicus (belly button) through which a thin tube with a light and camera (laparoscope) and surgical instruments are inserted.
The fallopian tubes are sealed off by cutting them and tying the ends. Part of the fallopian tubes may be removed. The fallopian tubes may also be blocked, destroying parts of the tubes or blocking them with rings or clips.
If the procedure is being combined with other open or laparoscopic surgeries of the abdomen or pelvis or cesarean delivery, the surgeon would perform the sterilization procedure using the incisions made for the abdominal or pelvic surgery or cesarean delivery. If tubal sterilization is being done after vaginal childbirth or isolated at any time, the procedure would be performed laparoscopically.
After the procedure
Patients are usually discharged the same day and occasionally the next day. Patients may experience pain, discomfort, giddiness and bloating that usually resolve in a few days. Painkillers and antibiotics are usually prescribed. Patients can resume their daily activities the next day after surgery because they feel better and more comfortable, but should avoid straining. Patients may bathe 48 hours after surgery. Patients can resume exercise, sports, heavy lifting and sexual intercourse after consulting the doctor. Recovery would take longer (six to eight weeks) if other abdominal or pelvic surgeries or cesarean delivery has also been performed.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of tubal sterilization?
Tubal sterilization may not be ideal for all women. Hence, it is important to discuss the advantages, disadvantages and risks of the procedure with the doctor.
Advantages of tubal sterilization
- Tubal sterilization can permanently prevent pregnancy with a good success rate. Hence, women need not use other types of birth control.
- It reduces the risk of ovarian cancer, especially if the fallopian tubes are cut.
Disadvantages of tubal sterilization
- The procedure is irreversible.; Hence, women who may want to get pregnant in the future can discuss with the doctor and opt for other long-acting contraceptive options such as intrauterine contraceptive devices/intrauterine devices (IUCDs/IUDs).
- The procedure does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Although tubal sterilization is relatively safe, it’s still a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia. Hence, there is a risk of complications. Some complications that may occur include
- Pelvic pain
- Improper wound healing
- Damage to the surrounding structures such as the bowel, bladder, muscles, major blood vessel, and other tissues
- Reaction to anesthesia
- Failure of the procedure, resulting in unwanted pregnancy in the future, especially tubal pregnancy (implantation of the fertilized egg in the fallopian tubes).
The risk of complications increases in the following cases
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Does Tubal Sterilization Work Related Articles
Birth Control OptionsBirth control is available in a variety of methods and types. The method of birth control varies from person to person, and their preferences to either become pregnant or not. Examples of barrier methods include barrier methods (sponge, spermicides, condoms), hormonal methods (pill, patch), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy), natural methods, and the morning after pill. Side effects and risks of each birth control option should be reviewed prior to using any birth control method.
Choosing Your Birth Control MethodWhich birth control option is right for you? Discover birth control methods such as birth control pills, birth control shot, implant, patch and more. Learn about birth control side effects and effectiveness.
Birth Control Quiz: Test Your Medical IQWhat is the best form of birth control? Take this quiz to find out about hormonal, surgical, barrier, and natural methods!
How Long Does a Hysteroscopy Take?Hysteroscopy is a procedure performed by a gynecologist to inspect inside of the uterine cavity using a thin tube with a light and camera attached to it. Hysteroscopy can take anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes or longer if a surgical procedure is being performed at the same time. Surgical procedures to treat uterine pathologies can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours as well, depending on the procedure.
Is Tubal Sterilization Reversible?Tubal ligation is technically reversible. However, the procedure is complicated and the results are not guaranteed. Though it is possible to reverse a tubal ligation, it is a major surgery that doesn’t always work, it is rarely covered by insurance and it is not recommended.
Birth Control: Surgical SterilizationSurgical sterilization is considered a permanent method of contraception. In certain cases, sterilization can be reversed, but this is not guaranteed. For this reason, sterilization is meant for men and women who do not intend to have children in the future. Types of surgical sterilization include: vasectomy, tubal ligation, STOP (selective tubal occlusion procedure), and hysterectomy.
What Does Birth Control Do to Your Body?Different birth control methods work in different manners. No birth control method is perfect and every procedure or method has a side effect.
What Is the Best Form of Birth Control?What's "best" among birth control methods differs from person to person. What's right for one person may not be right for others. And a person’s needs may also change over time.
Which Birth Control Has Least Side Effects?No form of birth control is free of side effects, but there are some that have the least noticeable ones.