Tubal ligation: A permanent birth control surgery

Definition

Tubal ligation, also known as getting your “tubes tied” or “female sterilization,” is a permanent birth control surgery. It prevents a woman from getting pregnant and is effective immediately after the procedure.

Description

The procedure is done by cutting and removing a section of both tubes, permanently blocking the tubes with different devices, or removing the fallopian tubes entirely. No matter the method, tubal ligation surgery usually takes 30-60 minutes.

  • Your surgeon will make one, two or three small incisions in your abdomen around the area of the belly button.
  • Air may also be pumped into your abdomen to expand it, making it easier for your surgeon to see your uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Sometimes a small tube with a tiny camera (laparoscope) on the end is inserted into your abdomen.
  • Surgical instruments used to block off or remove your tubes will be inserted through the same incision or through separate small openings.
  • Then the tubes are either clamped off with a small clip, a section is cut out, or the entire tube is removed.

This procedure blocks the path between the woman’s ovaries and her uterus. The egg can no longer get to the uterus to be fertilized by the sperm.

A woman can also have her “tubes tied” soon after she has delivered a baby naturally. This is done through a small cut in the belly button. It can also be performed during a C-section.

Risks

  • Incomplete blockage of the tubes
  • Pregnancy resulting from incomplete blockage of the tubes
  • Increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy if you do get pregnant after the procedure
  • Problems like tubal cysts if only a piece of the tube is removed but the rest remains in the body
  • Injury to surrounding organs and tissues from surgical instruments

Reasons for getting a tubal ligation

Tubal ligation is mainly performed on a woman who is absolutely certain she does not want to have children in the future.

It also is performed for women who do not want more children and desire to lower the risk of tubal and ovarian cancer in the future, whether or not their family has a history of ovarian cancer. In those cases, the patient will have their whole tubes removed to lower their risk of developing ovarian and tubal cancer later on in life.

What if I change my mind?

It is possible to reverse a tubal ligation but it is a major surgery that doesn’t always work, is rarely covered by insurance, and is not recommended.

Some women choose to have their “tubes tied” and later regret the decision. Since this procedure is a permanent form of birth control, it is not recommended if you are looking for something short-term. It is important to make sure this is something you really want and you know you do not want any future children. You should not get your “tubes tied” if you are unsure about the decision or think you might want to have more children in the future.

Sometimes, with major surgery it is possible to restore a woman’s ability to get pregnant, but it is still not guaranteed. If a woman does end up regretting her tubal ligation and decides she wants to have more children, an alternative to a reversal of tubal ligation is in vitro fertilization (also called IVF).

Prognosis

Generally, the majority of women have no issues after tubal ligation surgery. You will not need any further tests to confirm that you cannot get pregnant if the procedure is done soon after delivering vaginally, done at the same time as a C-section, or done with laparoscopy.

Last reviewed: 
January 2018
Alternative Names: 
Tubes tied
Female sterilization

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