Female sterilisation (also known as laparoscopic sterilisation or tubal ligation) is a permanent surgical procedure to block or seal a woman’s fallopian tubes (the tubes down which a woman’s egg travels from the ovaries to the womb). Sterilisation prevents pregnancy by stopping eggs 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.
You will need to discuss getting a female 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 if you have one
If you decide to go ahead with it, you can get a 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 caesarean section
You’ll need to use contraception until the day of the operation, and for at least 7 days afterwards.
The procedure may be done under general, regional or local anaesthetic. Your length of stay in hospital will depend on this.
Laparoscopy is the most common method for performing sterilisation. The surgeon will make a small cut near your belly button 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 applying clips or rings, or by tying, cutting and removing a small piece of the tube.
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.
Following the operation you will still have a normal menstrual cycle and still ovulate. Some women who were using hormonal contraception before experience a change in their periods due to stopping their hormonal contraception.
How to stop female sterilisation
Female sterilisation is very difficult to reverse, so you need to consider all options and use other methods of contraception until you are completely sure. Reversing a 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. Reversal is not usually performed on the NHS.
Things that can go wrong with sterilisation
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.
As the procedure is an operation requiring anaesthetic, your surgeon should discuss the associated risks of surgery with you before the procedure is carried out.