Female sterilisation (tubal ligation) is a permanent surgical procedure to block or seal a woman’s fallopian tubes which carry an embryo from the ovaries to the womb. Sterilization 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.
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.
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 cesarean section when you believe you have completed your family.
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 (laproscopy) 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.
Depending on the type of sterilisation, it can be effective between seven days to three months afterwards, and you’re advised to use contraception until your next period.
How to stop female sterilization
Female sterilization is very difficult to reverse, so you need to consider all options and use other methods of contraception until they’re 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.
Things that can go wrong with sterilization
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 sterilization 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.