All About Tubal Ligation for Birth Control
So you’ve decided you’ve finished having babies and are willing to make a more permanent choice regarding birth control. Whether hubby is not willing, ready or able to undergo the ‘snip’, or you would prefer to keep the ball in your on court, there are few procedures available to women that offer the relatively quick and pretty much permanent than that of Tubal Ligation.
What Is Tubal Ligation?
Tubal ligation is the female form of sterilisation (with vasectomy being the male counterpart) and is the surgical blocking of the fallopian tubes. It involves the cutting, burning, clipping or removal of the fallopian tubes and is considered permanent. It doesn’t affect menstruation, libido or menopause and risk of pregnancy following the procedure is very low, at 2-10/1000 women recorded becoming pregnant after the procedure (www.sogc.org).
Tubal ligation, or ‘getting your tubes tied’ works by blocking the path of the sperm through the fallopian tube so it cannot fertilise a released egg. When your tubes are ‘tied’, the egg is still released but is simply broken down and reabsorbed by the body. Sterilisation does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Tubal Ligation Procedure
Tubal Ligation is a laparoscopic (keyhole) procedure that is performed under general anaesthetic. Between one and three small cuts are made around the belly button and a laparoscope is inserted into one cut for the surgeon to be able to see the internal organs and perform the procedure. Working through the other two cuts, the surgeon will clip, burn with an electrical current or cut small sections out of, the fallopian tubes. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes, with most patients able to go home that day. Recovery takes anywhere between 2 – 5 days, or longer depending on the patient.
Tubal ligation can also be done following a caesarean section, with the view that the surgeon can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ whilst the abdominal surgery is going ahead.
After the procedure you can expect:
- Some pain at the incision site and abdominally.
- Many women report feeling dizzy or nauseous in the first 4 – 8 hours
- A sore throat from the general anaesthesia.
- Bloated feeling
- Neck and/or shoulder pain
- General fatigue
- Periods will still continue following the procedure, which is effective immediately.
- Your surgeon, or GP can remove any non-dissolvable stitches 7-10 days after the surgery
- A follow up appointment in 6 weeks
Who Can Get Tubal Ligation?
If you have made the decision that you do not wish to have any (more) children, issues to talk about with your GP for a referral include:
- Your age – most doctors will not perform permanent sterilisation procedures on women under 30
- Your family situation – if you have completed your family, you may prefer a more permanent birth control method rather than use contraceptives for the rest of your reproductive years. Alternatively, doctors are hesitant to perform tubal ligation on women who do not have any children because it is a permanent step.
- Medical issues – medical conditions affected by pregnancy can cause some women to opt for tubal ligation.
Possible Risks and Complications
Some of the documented possible risks and complications of a tubal ligation procedure include:
- An allergic reaction to the anaesthesia
- Damage to nearby organs, such as the bowel or ureters
- Infection of wound or fallopian tube
- Infection, inflammation and/or pain caused by the clip used in some procedures
Many different women report different advantages and disadvantages of tubal ligation. Some reported side effects include:
- A reduced risk of ovarian cancer (www.wikipedia.org)
- Abnormal, painful menstrual patterns and heavy bleeding
- Need for iron transfusions due to heavier menstrual flow
- Significant hormonal changes
Tubal Ligation VS Vasectomy
Some points in favour of a vasectomy over tubal ligation include:
- Chance of future pregnancy – With tubal ligation the risk is 1 in 400, with vasectomy it is 1 in 2,000.
- Procedure safety – Tubal ligation is done under a general anaesthetic which carries a greater risk than a local, which is generally how a vasectomy is done.
- Recovery time – With a vasectomy, men a generally able to walk out of the office, take it easy with painkillers and a bag of frozen peas for a couple of days. Tubal ligation is much more invasive surgery (even if only keyhole) and cutting through muscles will result in a longer recovery period.
- If you DO get pregnant after a tubal ligation, the risk of ectopic pregnancy is high, and is extremely painful and potentially harmful.
- Vasectomy is potentially reversible should circumstances, or minds, change.
- Women have done enough having the babies, it’s the men’s turn to ‘take one for the team!’
How To Arrange A Procedure
If you have done your research, spoken to your partner and have made the decision that Tubal Ligation is the best option for you, speak to your GP about getting a referral to a surgeon/gynaecologist that does the procedure. In Australia, many public health patients can arrange to undergo the surgery for free under the Medicare scheme, however a waiting period usually applies. Private patients need to check their cover to confirm the procedure is included.
www.sogc.org – Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Women's Health