Effectiveness in Preventing Pregnancy
- Out of 100 women who have a sterilization procedure each year, less than one may become pregnant.
What is female sterilization?
Female sterilization permanently prevents women from becoming pregnant. There are two different procedures to achieve this goal: tubal ligation and tubal implants. They both work by blocking the fallopian tubes (tubes that lead from a woman’s ovaries into the uterus or womb) so that sperm cannot meet with and fertilize an egg.
Because these methods cannot be undone, they are only recommended for women who are sure that they do not want to have any children in the future.
Tubal ligation: In this procedure—also known as “having your tubes tied”—the fallopian tubes are cut, sealed, clipped, or tied. With this method, very tiny cuts (called incisions) are made in the abdomen or belly. Tubal ligation prevents pregnancy immediately.
Tubal implant: A very small spring-like coil is placed into each fallopian tube. The coils cause scar tissue to form in the tubes, blocking the tubes. This method does not involve cuts or incisions. Instead, a healthcare provider uses a thin tube to thread the small coils through the vagina and uterus into the fallopian tubes, where the coils will remain.
With tubal implant, it may take up to three months for the scar tissue to fully block the tubes. So, it is important to use a back-up type of birth control (such as the birth control shot, birth control pills, the birth control ring, the birth control patch, or a condom) until your healthcare provider says it is no longer needed. After three months, your healthcare provider will do a confirmation test (an x-ray) to check that the coils are in the correct place and the scar tissue is blocking the fallopian tubes.
How effective is it?
Out of 100 women who have a sterilization procedure each year, less than one may become pregnant. Sterilization procedures are better at preventing pregnancy than condoms, the pill, the patch, the ring, or the shot.
How do I get it?
Female sterilization is a relatively simple outpatient surgery done in a health center, doctor’s office, or hospital. It can be performed under local or general anesthesia, depending on the method used to perform sterilization. You will go home the same day.
Some family planning centers offer sterilization procedures on site, but all family planning centers can refer you for the procedure.
Advantages of Female Sterilization
- Female sterilization is a safe and highly effective approach to preventing pregnancy.
- It lasts a lifetime, so you do not need to worry about birth control ever again.
- Recovery is quick.
- There are usually no significant long-term side effects.
- It is private. It is your choice if your partner knows about it.
Drawbacks of Female Sterilization
- Female sterilization does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. Always use a condom to reduce the risk of STDs.
- There is some risk of infection, pain, or bleeding.
- In the case of tubal ligation, very rarely, the fallopian tubes can grow back together. When this happens, there is a risk for pregnancy—in some cases, this leads to a pregnancy outside of the uterus (called an ectopic pregnancy), which is a life-threatening condition.
- Some women later wish they could have a child or additional children, and may regret their decision to sterilize.
- With tubal implant, if you have a nickel allergy, an autoimmune disease, or a pelvic infection, you may be at a higher risk of chronic pain in your pelvis with the flexible coils that were placed into the fallopian tubes.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). Practice Bulletin No. 133: Benefits and risks of sterilization. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 121,392–404.
- Birth Control: Medicines To Help You
- Birth Control Methods
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015, September). Brief summary of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices Panel of the Medical Advisory Committee Meeting.
- United States Medical Eligibility Criteria (US MEC) for Contraceptive Use, 2016
- United States Selected Practice Recommendations (US SPR) for Contraceptive Use, 2016
- What Women Should Know About Permanent Birth Control
Did You Know? (Sterilization)
Content last reviewed on April 9, 2019