Tubal ligation is very safe for most people, but all medical procedures have some risks. Sterilization is meant to be permanent, and usually can’t be reversed.
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Is sterilization safe?
Tubal ligation is super safe, and very few people have complications. But like all medical procedures, there are possible risks.
In general, vasectomy (also called male sterilization) is an easier procedure and has fewer risks than female sterilization.
Can sterilization be reversed?
Sterilization is meant to be permanent, so it usually can’t be undone.
It’s sometimes possible to reverse a tubal ligation procedure, or use IVF (in-vitro fertilization) to get pregnant after sterilization, but there are no guarantees — you may still not be able to get pregnant. Sterilization reversal is a complicated surgery, and it can be very expensive.
Whether or not sterilization reversal works depends on things like when the procedure was done, how it healed, and the type of sterilization you got.
Before you decide on tubal ligation, think about any possible life changes that could affect you in the future, like a divorce or a new partner, or the death of your children.
You don't need anyone's permission to get sterilized, but it may be helpful to talk about it with your partner (or anyone else who can offer you support and advice). If you’re worried about how to reverse it, it might not be the best option for you.
There are other super-effective ways to prevent pregnancy that aren’t permanent. IUDs and implants work almost as well as sterilization to prevent pregnancy. They last for a long time, but can be removed easily and your fertility quickly comes back.
What are the risks of sterilization?
Serious problems after sterilization are rare. But call your doctor immediately if you:
get a rash, swelling or have trouble breathing
have a fever
have severe, continuous pain in your belly
have unusual discharge or odor from your vagina
have fainting spells
have bleeding or pus where the incision (cut) was made
There’s a chance that your fallopian tubes can reconnect or become unblocked after sterilization, but this is really rare. If you get pregnant after sterilization, the pregnancy could develop in your fallopian tube — this is called ectopic pregnancy, and it’s very dangerous.
Signs of ectopic pregnancy include:
irregular bleeding from your vagina
severe pain in your belly or in your shoulder
sudden weakness or fainting
If you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy, call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.
Other risks of sterilization depend on what type you get.
Sterilization with Essure is safe, but it still has possible complications:
If one or both of the Essure inserts aren't put in right, you could need a second procedure.
The inserts can move out of place.
Your fallopian tubes might not be totally blocked after 3 months, so you may have to wait 3 more months. If they still aren’t blocked, you may need another procedure.
There's a very small chance that your uterus could be injured during the procedure, which may require surgery.
The inserts may get damaged during certain other medical procedures in the same area of your body.
Other really rare complications with Essure include: too much fluid buildup in your bloodstream, changes with your period, infection, and pain in your back or pelvic area.
Some types of tubal ligation are done through incisions (cuts in your skin) in your belly. These are very low-risk surgeries, but any kind of medical procedure can have complications. The risks of this type of sterilization include:
bad reaction to general anesthesia (medicine sometimes used to put you to sleep during the procedure)
infection, which is rare and can be treated with antibiotics
Very rarely, your bowel, bladder, uterus, or blood vessels can be injured, and you might need surgery to fix this.
Death caused by surgical sterilization is very, very uncommon — if it happens, it’s usually from a reaction to general anesthesia.
Your doctor will talk with you to help you figure out whether sterilization is safe for you.