Female sterilisation – everything you need to know

A very permanent form of contraception

Female sterilisation is a very permanent method of contraception and is often only used by females over 30 that already have children. If a female is certain that they don’t want any more children and will not want any in the future, this method takes away the stress of repeat prescriptions, doctors appointments and hassle of contraceptives.

What is female sterilisation?

Female sterilisation is a permanent surgical procedure to block or seal a female’s fallopian tubes, which carry an embryo from the ovaries to the womb.

How does female sterilisation work?

It prevents pregnancy by stopping embryos from reaching the sperm and becoming fertilised. Eggs will still be released from the ovaries as normal, but they’ll be absorbed naturally into the woman’s body.

How do I get female sterilisation?

You will need to discuss getting a sterilisation in detail with your doctor; they will ask you a number of questions around your circumstances and you may want to discuss it with your partner. You may even be referred for counselling before they refer you for sterilisation, which will give you an opportunity to talk through any worries, doubts or questions you may have. Your GP is well within their right to refuse to carry out the procedure or refuse to refer you if they don’t think it’s within your best interests.

If you decide to go ahead with it, you can get sterilisation for free on the NHS but may need to wait several months on a waiting list. Sometimes it can be done at the same time as a cesarean section. You’ll need to use contraception until the day of the operation, and right up until your next period after surgery if you’re having your fallopian tubes blocked.

The surgeon will make a small cut near your belly button (laparoscopy) and insert a long, thin instrument called a laparoscope that has a light and a camera, so they can see your fallopian tubes.
The fallopian tubes are then blocked by either:

  • Applying clips: plastic or titanium clamps are closed over the fallopian tubes
  • Applying rings: a small loop of the fallopian tube is pulled through a silicone ring, then clamped shut
  • Tying, cutting and removing a small piece of the fallopian tube

Dependant on the type of method used, you will either have a general or local anaesthetic.

The operation is fairly minor and most women return home the same day. The doctor or nurse should give you information about how to look after yourself in the weeks following your sterilisation. You will normally feel a little uncomfortable and need to rest for a few days. Depending on the type of sterilisation, it can be effective between seven days to three months afterwards. You’re advised to use contraception until your next period. You may have some slight vaginal bleeding, be sure to use a sanitary towel rather than a tampon until it stops. If you feel any pain, similar to period pain then you can take painkillers for this. If the bleeding or the pain gets worse, contact the specialist who treated you, your GP or call 111.

How do I stop?

Sterilisation is very difficult to reverse, so you need to consider all options and use other methods of contraception until they’re completely sure. Reversing sterilisation involves rejoining the fallopian tubes that were cut or blocked, and success will depend upon how old you are and when you were sterilised.

Female sterilisation VS male vasectomy

Sterilisation works by stopping the egg and the sperm meeting. In female sterilisation (tubal occlusion) this is done by cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes which carry an egg from the ovary to the uterus (womb). In male sterilisation, this is done by cutting and sealing or tying the vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis). This is called a vasectomy.

There is a risk that the sterilisation will not work, the tubes that carry the sperm in men and the eggs in women can re-join after sterilisation. However, in most cases, once the procedure is done, sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception and is hard to reverse on both males and females. Both methods are safe and effective.

Pros and cons of female sterilisation

Pros

  • More than 99% effective
  • Should be effective immediately, but just to be safe it’s recommended to use protection until your next period
  • It does not affect your hormones levels and you still have periods
  • You do not need to think about protecting yourself from pregnancy each time.

Cons

  • About one in 200 female sterilisations fail – this can happen for a number of reasons; the fallopian can occasionally rejoin after sterilisation, immediately or some years after the operation has been carried out. Very rarely there are surgical errors and the procedure is not completed correctly.
  • If female sterilisation fails and you do become pregnant, there is a small increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. You should seek advice straight away if you think you might be pregnant or have a light or delayed period, unusual vaginal bleeding, or if you have sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen.
  • Like with any surgery, there is a small risk of complications such as internal bleeding, infection or damage to other organs.
  • The procedure cannot be easily reversed.

Who should use it?

  • Females that don’t ever want to have to worry about contraception
  • Females that are over 30 with children
  • Females that don’t want to lose their periods.

Who shouldn’t use it?

  • Females that are under 30
  • Females that are positive they do not want any more children
  • Females that are wanting protection for STIs.

Where can I get female sterilisation?

If you are seriously considering sterilisation and are looking for advice on the matter, you should be able to book an appointment with your GP in which they will be able to discuss this with you. If you and your doctor agree that this is the best option, you will be put on a waiting list. It can take up to several months to get an appointment.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.