Tubal Ligation: Effectiveness, Procedure, and Side Effects


Tubal ligation, sometimes referred to as “getting your tubes tied,” is a birth control method for women. There are a lot of misconceptions about tubal ligation, potentially due to its distant murky past of being a sterilization method women were subject to but may not have chosen. However, it is a safe option for women who do not want to have children and are in search of a more permanent method of birth control. 

Tubal ligation is an outpatient surgical procedure where the fallopian tubes are either cut, banded, sealed, or tied. It is performed under either general anesthesia or with a local or spinal anesthesia (a type of sedation where you are awake but unable to feel pain).  Tubal ligation does not affect your menstrual cycle or how sex feels, though it does not protect you from STIs. 

What is the process of tubal ligation?

The process usually takes 30 minutes. Once you have received sedation, the surgeon will make one or more small incisions near your belly button and sometimes lower abdomen. Gas will sometimes be pumped into the belly to inflate it, giving the surgeon more room to work and a better view. The surgeon will then insert a laparoscope, a narrow tube with a light and camera on one end, into the abdomen. They will then use long, thin surgical instruments to cut, find, and grab hold of the fallopian tubes. From there, depending on what you selected, the fallopian tubes will either be cut, clamped, tied, banded, or sealed with electric current. Once completed, the surgeon will then close the incisions in the skin with a few stitches. 

Tubal ligations should be performed either after giving childbirth or after their period, to ensure they are not pregnant at the time of the procedure.

How effective is tubal ligation?

Tubal ligation is greater than 99% effective and one of the most effective forms of birth control overall. Less than one in every 100 women that have their tubes tied will become pregnant. Because of the permanence of the procedure, it is considered long-term birth control.

What are the disadvantages of tubal ligation?

While it does have benefits, there are also a few disadvantages of tubal ligation. The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases. Tubal ligation is also a permanent method of birth control, so if a woman changes her mind about her desire to have children, she may not be able to successfully have the process reversed. Tubal ligation is also a surgical procedure, so with it comes all the associated risks of surgery such as infection, complications, and death. 

Is tubal ligation permanent?

Tubal ligation is considered permanent birth control. That said, only about 50 to 80% of women are able to reverse the procedure should they opt to. However, you won’t know if you fall into that success range until after the reversal procedure as it cannot be predicted with guaranteed accuracy.

Where does the egg go after tubal ligation?

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the egg is released by the ovaries. After a tubal ligation, the egg no longer floats down the fallopian tubes and is instead broken down and absorbed by the body. The ovaries are not affected by tubal ligation and will continue to release eggs each month until a woman begins perimenopause. 

Do you still have a period with tubal ligation?

Tubal ligation only affects where an egg goes once released by the ovaries. After a tubal ligation, your body will continue to release hormones as regular and you will have a regular menstrual period. This is different from other birth control methods like IUDs or some methods of taking birth control pills which suppress menstruation. 

Can you still get pregnant after tubal ligation?

Less than 1% of women will become pregnant after having their tubes tied. Tubal ligation can increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tubes instead of traveling down into the uterus. This can be quite dangerous, so it’s important to know the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. 

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include: 

  • Light vaginal bleeding
  • Pelvic, side, or abdominal pain which can be either general or only on one side. 
  • Pain in the tip of the shoulder
  • Urge to have a bowel movement
  • Brown or watery discharge

If you suspect an ectopic pregnancy, head to the emergency room immediately. 

What happens to a woman after tubal ligation?

After tubal ligation, you will be moved to a recovery room while you wake up from anesthesia. Once you are able to drink fluids, your IV will be removed and you should be released in a few hours.

It’s normal to have discomfort for several days after a tubal ligation. Your surgeon will advise you on how to handle pain management. You may also find that you experience distention from the gas build up during the procedure. Lying down, often on your left side, will help disperse the gas quickly. You will need to keep incision areas dry and clean.  

Most times you will be able to resume your normal diet and activities in a few days though you will want to avoid any heavy lifting for a few weeks post-procedure. You may be able to return to sexual activity within a week. Of course, your surgeon will give you all post-op instructions and you will want to keep all related appointments such as removing your stitches and checkups.

How much does it cost to have your tubes tied?

The cost for tubal ligation ranges from zero cost to upwards of $6000

Tubal ligation can cost between $0 to $6,000, including follow-up visits. These costs vary depending on where you receive the procedure, the type of procedure you get, and what your health insurance will cover. Some insurance plans will cover tubal ligation since it falls under birth control, which many plans subsidize. People who receive medical care from Medicaid or government programs may also qualify to receive the procedure for free or at a reduced cost.

You can also check with your local Planned Parenthood health clinic to discuss all of your birth control options and how much they cost, including tubal ligation.

Can tubal ligation cause problems later in life?

Tubal ligation does come with some degree of risk. Statistics show that less than one in every thousand women who receive the procedure experiences a serious medical issue later. These potential issues may include: 

  • Bleeding from the incision or abdomen
  • Side effects from anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Ectopic pregnancy 
  • Damage to other organs inside the abdomen
  • Incomplete closure of a fallopian tube which can result in pregnancy

Both Tubal ligation and vasectomy are permanent birth control options. While both offer long-term effectiveness, tubal ligation is more invasive for women while vasectomy has a lower risk of complications for men. Learn more about the pros and cons of Vasectomy vs. Tubal Ligation and other birth control methods at Hormone University to find out which method is best for you. Hormone University was created as an educational platform with the mission to improve hormone health through accessible knowledge and to advocate for social impact in our communities.

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