When you’re making family planning decisions, you might be wondering what permanent sterilization methods are available to you. Women are often curious about having their “tubes tied” once they’re finished having children. A postpartum tubal ligation might be a good choice for women who are currently pregnant with their last child.
What is a Tubal Ligation?
Postpartum tubal ligation is a sterilization procedure that is performed in the first few hours or days after childbirth. This is a procedure that will permanently prevent pregnancy by blocking the path between eggs and sperm.
In a tubal ligation, the surgeon will make a small incision below the woman’s bellybutton. The surgeon either cuts the fallopian tubes and closes them with thread or cauterization, or clamps them with special clips. This blocks the eggs from traveling through the fallopian tubes into the uterus, as well as preventing the sperm from accessing the eggs.
Although it can be performed at any time, the procedure is most easily performed soon after delivery. The woman’s swollen uterus is pressing the fallopian tubes close to the abdominal wall, making them readily accessible through a small surgical incision in the woman’s belly.
If the baby was delivered by Cesarean section, then the surgeon can easily perform a tubal ligation through the same incisions that were made to retrieve the baby.
A tubal ligation is typically performed under local, regional, or general anesthesia to make the process comfortable and painless. The type of anesthesia required depends on upon the woman and whether she had a vaginal or Cesarean birth.
Side Effects of a Tubal Ligation
Postpartum tubal ligation is a very safe surgical procedure with a low risk of complications relating to the surgery itself. A tubal ligation won’t affect your menstrual cycle since it has no effect on your ovaries and uterus.
Most risks and side effects are due to the effects of anesthesia. During recovery, you might experience pain at the site of incision and feel drowsy until the anesthesia wears off. You might also experience:
- Bloating and gas
- Shoulder pain
- Sore throat – this is a typical side effect of having a breathing tube that used with general anesthesia
If you develop a fever, if your pain is severe, or if the pain lasts longer than 3 days, call your doctor right away. This might indicate an infection.
Tubal Ligation Reversal
We recommend that you think carefully about the decision to undergo a tubal ligation. There are many forms of birth control available that have virtually the same effectiveness as a tubal ligation, without the permanence of surgical sterilization.
However, some tubal ligations are reversible. If the surgeon used clips to block the fallopian tubes, then the reversal procedure is more likely to be successful than if the tubes were cut and resealed. Reversal is not always recommended. Your tubes may be scarred from the procedure, and you may have difficulty becoming pregnant.
Family planning is a very personal decision, and you have many factors to consider. Talk with your OB-GYN, and make sure you thoroughly understand all of the options available to you.