Deciding on birth control: Female sterilization. Permanent contraception for women.

Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control, so it should only be done when you and your partner are sure that you don’t want more children, or don’t want children at all.

It’s a more complicated and longer operation than vasectomy (male sterilization).

It is reversible but the operation is difficult and often not successful.  So it’s important that your decision to have sterilisation is a final one.

In this article we’ll look at the pros and cons of sterilisation, including what the operation entails.

What is female sterilization?

Female sterilization gives permanent birth control.

The Fallopian tubes are cut or clipped so that the sperm can no longer meet the egg that comes from the ovary.

How effective is sterilisation?

It is more than 99% effective. The failure rate for the operation is very low.

What happens in the sterilization operation?

You can see from the picture that woman’s ovaries are ‘attached’ to the womb by 2 long tubes.  These are the Fallopian tubes.

If a man or woman isn’t using any form of birth control, the egg travels from the ovary to the womb once a month, and the sperm travel up through the cervix, into the womb to meet it.

Somewhere in Fallopian tubes or womb, the egg can be fertilized by the sperm and a pregnancy can start.

Sterilization cuts or clips the Fallopian tubes so that the sperm and egg can’t meet.

The operation is done under general anaesthetic, in hospital.

  1. Your surgeon will make 2 small cuts in the lower belly.
  2. One cut allows him to put in a device like a telescope so that he can see what’s happening inside.  Into the other cut he puts instruments that will make the cuts or apply the clips to the tubes.
  3. This is called laparoscopic sterilisation.

You will be able to get on with your regular activities within a few weeks but your surgeon will advise you.

The traditional way of doing the operation is to make a bigger cut into the lower belly.  This may be done if the surgeon feels it’s better for you – if you’re over weight or have had problems with operations in the past.

A newer way of doing the female sterilization operation is to use a hysteroscopic (say ‘hiss-terroe-scoppik’) sterilization technique.  Your surgeon will be specially trained for this procedure.

  1. This means that, instead of making a cut in the abdomen, the surgeon gets to the ovaries and Fallopian tubes by putting instruments into the vagina.  He then puts a small camera into the cervix and passes tiny ‘inserts’ into the Fallopian tubes.
  2. These inserts sit in the Fallopian tubes and cause them to scar.  The scar tissue causes a blockage in the tubes and this stops the egg and sperm meeting.
  3. You will need to use other methods of birth control until your surgeon confirms that these inserts are in the right place. This is done by X-ray or ultra sound scanning.

What are the advantages of sterilisation?

It’s permanent and you and your partner won’t have to think about contraception again.

What are the disadvantages of sterilisation?

If your circumstances change or you change your mind, the operation to reverse a sterilisation is complicated and may not work.

Sterilization does not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases.  You will need condoms for disease prevention.

Is sterilisation right for me?

 If you and your partner have completed your family or don’t want to have children at all, then sterilisation is a good option for permanent birth control.

If you’re not sure enough about the future for your relationship(s) then you may not feel this is the answer.

The decision to have sterilisation shouldn’t be taken lightly.  If you have just given birth or had a termination, you’ve recently been bereaved or are under other severe emotional stresses, then don’t make the decision at this time.

What are the side effects of sterilisation?

All operations carry a small risk.  There is a risk from the anaesthetic and there is a risk of infection at the site where the cuts are made into the belly.

There is no affect to your sex drive.

You do not gain weight.

The operation does not put you at greater risk of early menopause or female cancers.

Find out more:

In the UK see www.fpa.org.uk

In the US see www.plannedparenthood.org

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