Most women know the birth control method of tubal ligation as “getting your tubes tied.”
It’s a surgical birth control method where a female’s Fallopian tubes are tied into a knot so as to prevent an egg from traveling into the Fallopian tubes for fertilisation. The tubes can also be cut or blocked by another method in tubal ligation.
Tubal ligation or tubal sterilization is regarded as a permanent procedure, so it’s not something that you should get if you ever hope to have children in the future. Because of that, it’s usually requested by women in their 30s and 40s. It’s actually possible to reverse a tubal ligation, but the majority of the time, the woman will still be unable to become pregnant.
Some fun statistics on Tubal Ligation Include:
- The younger the patient is when undergoing this procedure, the more likely it is that the procedure will FAIL.
- It is 99.5% effective
- Does not offer any STI protection
- In very rare cases, there could be damage done to the bowel during surgery.
- Also known as a ‘Tubectomy’.
- Can have more complications than a vasectomy
- Can reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer.
How the Tubal Ligation Procedure is Done
The procedure is done by a surgeon or a Gynecologist and involves making a tiny incision in the abdomen so that the tools can reach the Fallopian tubes. It can be painful for some women, though many don’t claim to have much pain. It really depends on the individual and the method used. Some surgeons will burn the Fallopian tubes shut, which actually hurts less than having them cut.
Sometimes a tubal ligation can be done straight away after giving birth (they make a tiny incision under the belly button), or it can be done during a c-section.
Most of the time, the patient will require a general anesthetic however it has been known to be done as an outpatient using a great big needle (eek).
The procedure includes inflating the abdomen with gas (so they can see what they are doing), and then locates the Fallopian tubes and either cuts them and then burns each of the ends, or just chops the fallopian tubes out altogether, or applies ‘clamps’ over each tube which remain in place.
What Recovery is Like After the Tubal Ligation
Unless there are any complications, you can leave the hospital the same day as your tubal ligation. Some of the after-effects include a slight vaginal bleeding, as well as possible swelling in your stomach if you went for a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy is one of the less painful methods of tubal ligation, but it uses gas to pull the muscles off the organs in your abdomen to give the surgeon more room to work with. This gas is what causes the temporary swelling, which usually only lasts for about a day before it’s absorbed by your body.
Usually, you’ll be allowed to shower at least 24 hours after the surgery takes place, but you should resist the temptation to rub or pull on your incision for seven days at least. Sex is possible pretty much immediately, but it may be painful for up to a week after you have the procedure done. Finally, try to schedule at least one day of rest before you have to go back to work or do anything strenuous. This will help the incision heal faster. Try not to exercise for at least a week.
Side effects after surgery can include:
- Shoulder pain (this is from the gas)
- Gas (from the gas)
- tiredness and lethargy
- scar at the incision site
There is also a rare side effect called ‘Post Tubal Syndrome’ which causes abnormal bleeding, changes in sexual behavior and increased premenstrual stress.
How effective is Tubal Ligation?
Tubal ligation is not, surprisingly, 100% effective. There’s still a very small risk of pregnancy but after a year, at least five women out of 1,000 will get pregnant again. After a period of five years, that goes up to approximately 13 women out of 1,000. Sometimes, the tubes will grow back together, or your body may actually create a new passage to let the egg through. Nature finds a way.
As far as complications go, tubal ligation is generally very safe. A minor complication is an infection which should be treated immediately. Major complications would be blood loss or an incision that is too small for the operation, preventing it from being done. The surgeon would have to wait for the incision to heal and then make a larger one. This rarely happens though.
What About Tubal Ligation Reversal?
Tubal Ligation is considered permanent, however, there is a procedure called a ‘Tubal Reversal’ that uses microsurgery to re-connect the Fallopian tubes. However, this is not always possible or successful surgery and is very expensive.
However, women still have the option of doing IVF to bypass the Fallopian tubes if they wish to get pregnant again.
Tubal Ligation is Progressively Being Phased Out
With the ease of use of the Mirena, the number of women having tubal ligation procedures is declining.
Pros of Tubal Ligation:
- May slightly reduce the chance of ovarian cancer
- Is considered permanent
- If a women wishes to become pregnant after the procedure, they can do IVF.
Cons of Tubal Ligation:
- All surgeries offer a degree of risk.
- In rare cases, the fallopian tubes can join back together (more prevalent in younger women).
- Costly compared to newer forms of birth control.
Will you get your tubes tied?
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention. We have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice.
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.