What is sterilization?
Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control. Sterilization procedures for women are called tubal occlusion. 

How does tubal occlusion work to prevent pregnancy?
Tubal occlusion closes off the fallopian tubes. This prevents the egg from moving down the fallopian tube to the uterus and keeps the sperm from reaching the egg.

How effective is female sterilization?
Sterilization is a highly effective way to prevent pregnancy. Fewer than 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant within 1 year of having the procedure. After 10 years, pregnancy rates range from fewer than 1 to fewer than 4 out of 100 women, depending on the type of sterilization method used.

Are there risks associated with female sterilization?
A risk common to all female sterilization methods is that if pregnancy does occur, there is an increased chance that it will be an ectopic pregnancy. However, the risk of ectopic pregnancy occurring in women after tubal sterilization is lower than in women who do not use any birth control. Other risks are specific to the type of procedure.

How is female sterilization performed?
There are three ways that sterilization for women can be performed:

  • Minilaparotomy—A small incision is made in the abdomen. The fallopian tubes are brought up through the incision. A small section of each tube is removed, or both tubes can be removed completely. Less often, clips are used to close off the tubes. This approach frequently is used for postpartum sterilization (see FAQ052 “Postpartum Sterilization”).
  • Laparoscopy—This is a type of surgical procedure that uses a device called a laparoscope to view the pelvic organs (seeFAQ035 “Sterilization by Laparoscopy”). The fallopian tubes are closed off using instruments passed through thelaparoscope or with another instrument inserted through a second small incision.
  • Hysteroscopy—Hysteroscopic sterilization does not require incisions in the skin. It can be done with local anesthesia in a health care professional’s office (see FAQ180 “Hysteroscopic Sterilization”). Small devices are placed into the openings of the fallopian tubes. The devices cause scar tissue to form that blocks the fallopian tubes. After having the procedure, it takes 3 months for the scar tissue to form. During this time, you must use another form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. A test called hysterosalpingography must be done to ensure that the tubes are blocked before you can use it as your only method of birth control.
Can sterilization be reversed?
Sterilization is permanent birth control and is not meant to be reversible. Before having the procedure, you (and your partner, if appropriate) must be certain that you do not want children in the future. If you have a sterilization procedure and you change your mind after the operation, you can have surgery to try to reverse it, or assisted reproductive technology can be used to attempt pregnancy. These procedures are expensive and may not be covered by insurance. There also is no guarantee that you will be able to become pregnant afterward.

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