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Tubal ligation

Definition

Tubal ligation (or "tying the tubes") is surgery to close a woman's fallopian tubes. These tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus. A woman who has this surgery can no longer get pregnant (sterile).

Alternative Names

Sterilization surgery - female; Tubal sterilization; Tube tying; Tying the tubes

Description

Tubal ligation is done in a hospital or outpatient clinic. You may receive general anesthesia. This will make you unconscious and unable to feel pain. Or, you may have local anesthesia (awake and unable to feel pain) or spinal anesthesia (awake but unable to feel pain). You will likely receive medicine to also make you sleepy. The procedure takes about 30 minutes.

  • Your surgeon will make one or two small incisions (cuts) in your belly, usually around the belly button. Gas may be pumped into your belly to expand it. This helps your surgeon see your uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Your surgeon will insert a laparoscope (a narrow tube with a tiny camera on the end) into your belly. Instruments to block off your tubes will be inserted through the laparoscope or through a separate, very small incision.
  • The tubes are either cauterized (burned shut) or clamped off with a small clip or ring (band).

Tubal ligation can also be done right after you have a baby through a small incision in the navel or during a cesarean sectio.

Another technique for sterilization involves going through the cervix and placing coils or plugs in the tubes where they connect with the uterus.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Tubal ligation may be recommended for adult women who know for sure they do not want to get pregnant in the future.

Even though many women choose to have tubal ligation, some are sorry later that they did. The younger the woman is, the more likely it is she will regret having her tubes tied as she gets older.

Tubal ligation is considered a permanent form of birth control. It is NOT recommended as a short-term method or one that can be reversed. Even so, major surgery can sometimes reverse it. About 50 to 80 women out of 100 who have their tubal ligation reversed are able to become pregnant.

Risks

Risks for any surgery are:

  • Bleeding
  • Damage to other organs (bowel or urinary systems) requiring further surgery for repair
  • Infection

Risks for any anesthesia are:

Risks for tubal ligation are:

  • Incomplete closing of the tubes, which could make pregnancy still possible. About 1 out of 200 women who have had tubal ligation get pregnant later.
  • Increased risk of a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy if pregnancy occurs after a tubal ligation
  • Injury to nearby organs or tissues from surgical instruments

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse:

  • If you are or could be pregnant
  • What drugs you are taking, even drugs, herbs, or supplements you bought without a prescription

During the days before your surgery:

  • You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot.
  • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help quitting.

On the day of your surgery:

  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before your surgery, or 8 hours before the time of your surgery.
  • Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital or clinic.

After the Procedure

You will probably go home the same day you have the procedure. Some women may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

You will have some tenderness and pain. Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicine or tell you what over-the-counter pain medicine (medicine you can buy without a prescription) you can take.

After laparoscopy, many women will have shoulder pain for a few days. This is caused by the gas used in the abdomen to help the surgeon see better during the procedure. You can relieve the gas by lying down.

You should avoid heavy lifting for 3 weeks, but can return to most normal activities within a few days.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most women will have no problems. Tubal ligation is an effective form of birth control for women. You will NOT need to have any tests to make sure you cannot get pregnant in the future if the procedure is done with laparoscopy or after delivering a baby.

If you have the type of sterilization done through the uterus (Essure or Adiana), you will need to have a test called hysterosalpingogram 3 months after the procedure to make sure your tubes are blocked.

Your menstrual cycles will return to whatever pattern is normal for you. If you used hormonal birth control, or the Mirena IUD before, then your periods will change to whatever is normal for you after you stop using these methods.

Women who have a tubal ligation have a decreased risk of later developing ovarian cancer.

References

Mishell DR Jr. Family planning: contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 14.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Sterilization by laparoscopy. ACOG Education Pamphlet AP035. February 2003. Accessed March 3, 2010.


Review Date: 3/30/2010
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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