What you need to know about female sterilisation

Female sterilisation involves a short operation to put clips onto your fallopian tubes. It’s done under general anaesthetic. Although it’s reversible, your tubes are often damaged and so pregnancy may not be possible in the future.

There are other methods of female sterilisation but 85% of operations are carried out this way.

Also known as...

  • having your tubes tied

  • tubal ligation

It’s a very effective method of contraception

Sterilisation is over 99% effective, which means fewer than 1 person out of 100 will get pregnant in 1 year.

Female sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception. It’s very effective but still slightly less effective than long-acting methods such as implants and IUDs. It’s a good option if you’re sure that you will not want any future pregnancies and if you’re willing to have an operation. It’s becoming a less popular option as more people choose long-acting reversible methods of contraception instead.

Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director, SH:24

Female sterilisation is a good option if…

  • you’re sure you don’t want to get pregnant in the future 

  • you do not want the inconvenience of other methods of contraception

  • you’re willing to have a small operation under general anaesthetic

Female sterilisation is not recommended if…

  • you might want to be pregnant in the future – regret is the most common reason people want to reverse their sterilisation and it can be difficult to do so  

  • you’re under 30 years old – regret is more common in people who are sterilised under the age of 30 and the Royal Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology guidance advises against getting the procedure before this age

  • you’re at high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as sterilisation does not protect you against infections

  • you control your periods with hormonal contraception – after sterilisation, periods return to whatever is normal for you

  • you’ve had pelvic surgery before – in some cases, the scarring from previous operations may make the sterilisation procedure difficult

To decide if female sterilisation is right for you, you’ll need to balance the advantages and disadvantages for you, your health and your lifestyle.

As with any method of contraception, when your circumstances, relationships and sex life change, then you might change your mind about sterilisation too.

It’s a good idea to read about all the different options and talk it through with different people.

Vasectomy is a less serious operation than female sterilisation. It involves cutting or blocking the tube that carries sperm from the testicles and is usually done as an outpatient procedure.

If you’d like to discuss this option in more detail, book an appointment with your GP.

Read more about vasectomy.

After sterilisation, your menstrual cycle will go back to whatever is normal for you.

If you’ve been on the pill and stopped it after your sterilisation, you may notice that your periods are slightly heavier now. This is because the pill makes periods lighter.

You’ll be covered for contraception after your first normal period following the operation.

It can be difficult to reverse sterilisation. The operation damages the tissue of the fallopian tubes, so even after the clips are removed it’s difficult for the sperm and egg to get through.

It’s important to consider this before going for the procedure.

It might be useful to look at alternative, long-acting methods of contraception like the copper or hormonal coil. These are even more effective at preventing pregnancy and your fertility returns to normal after stopping them.

If you do decide to reverse your sterilisation, it cannot be done on the NHS. You will need to pay to have it done privately.

There have been 37 studies that looked at the experiences of 10,689 people who had been sterilised.

Of these, 42–69% were able to get pregnant after having the sterilisation reversed. The older they were, the less likely it was. You can read about the research in this journal article.

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