Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Tubal ligation

3-minute read

Tubal ligation is a permanent form of female contraception. If you have a tubal ligation, you will have surgery in which your fallopian tubes will be clipped, cut and tied or sealed shut. This prevents any eggs from moving from the ovaries along the tube to the uterus, preventing fertilisation and pregnancy.

Also known as laparoscopic sterilisation, tubal ligation is very effective. Fewer than one woman in every hundred who has a tubal ligation will become pregnant later.

illustration of a tubal ligation
Female reproductive system and tubal ligation, showing the fallopian tubes tied (left), cut (centre), and sealed (right)

What does a tubal ligation involve?

If you have a tubal ligation, you will have a general anaesthetic. The operation is usually done via keyhole surgery known as laparoscopy. It is normally a day procedure, although an overnight stay in hospital is possible.

One or two tiny incisions are made in the lower abdomen and a small camera (laparoscope) is inserted so that the fallopian tubes can be seen. The tubes are then closed off by clips or sealed by heat.

Some women might need another form of operation known as a laparotomy, which involves a larger incision in the abdomen and several days’ stay in hospital.

What are the risks and complications of tubal ligation?

Most women need a few days to recover from the anaesthetic. Some women have pain in their shoulders, and some have minor abdominal discomfort immediately after the operation.

A few women get injuries to the bowel, bladder or blood vessels due to accidental perforation.

There is still a small chance you can get pregnant, even years later. If this does happen, there is an increased risk of the pregnancy being ectopic, or outside the uterus.

Can tubal ligation be reversed?

It is sometimes possible to repair the fallopian tubes after tubal ligation, but only half of women fall pregnant after a reversal. The risk of ectopic pregnancy after a reversal also increases.

So if you’re thinking about a tubal ligation, talk about the risks and benefits with your partner and your doctor. This is meant to be permanent, although it doesn’t stop you having IVF and other forms of assisted reproduction later.

You should have a tubal ligation only if you’re absolutely sure you don’t want any more children, and not regret the decision later.

What are the alternatives to tubal ligation?

There are many alternatives to permanent female sterilisation, including:

  • permanent male sterilisation – vasectomy
  • long-acting reversible contraception such as intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants in the skin of the arm
  • short-acting reversible types of contraception – birth control pills, patches or vaginal rings, condoms, the diaphragm, a cervical cap or regular contraceptive injections

For more information

Visit Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website for more information about contraception.

Last reviewed: April 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Contraception: female surgical sterilisation - myDr.com.au

Female surgical sterilisation, sometimes called tubal ligation, is a form of permanent contraception. Find out how it works, and the advantages and disadvantages.

Read more on myDr website

Vasectomy vs Tubal ligation | Marie Stopes Vasectomy

If youre looking into sterilisation options, it can be a tough choice between his and hers; vasectomy vs tubal ligation. Both options are permanent and have similar levels of efficacy, but its also worth considering costs, complications and recovery time before making a final decision.

Read more on Marie Stopes Australia website

Contraception - Female sterilisation - Better Health Channel

Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception that a woman can choose if she is sure that she does not want children in the future.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Non-hormonal Contraception | myVMC

Non-hormonal contraceptives include barrier methods and other methods such as intrauterine devices, female and male sterilisation procedures, spermicides and the withdrawal method of contraception.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Vasectomy | Marie Stopes Australia

Vasectomy is the only permanent method of contraception currently available to men.

Read more on Marie Stopes Australia website

Sterilisation

There are operations for both men and woman to make them sterile (permanently unable to have children).

Read more on WA Health website

Vasectomy vs Condoms | Marie Stopes Vasectomy

When it comes to finances, the choice between condoms and a vasectomy seems pretty obvious. Well it might be time to think again, because not only is a vasectomy far more effective at preventing pregnancy it also turns out to be a lot more affordable over your lifetime.

Read more on Marie Stopes Australia website

Finding birth control that works for you | Marie Stopes AU

With so many birth control options available to women, it can be difficult knowing which one is the best fit. Here are some questions to consider first.

Read more on Marie Stopes Australia website

Contraception

Contraception is the use of hormones, devices or surgery to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant. It allows couples to choose if and when they want to have a baby. Here's a guide to the different forms of contraception available.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Contraception after childbirth and during breastfeeding | myVMC

Contraception after childbirth is an important consideration as suitable methods depend on whether a woman is breastfeeding, how often she is breastfeedng and whether or not supplemental foods are added.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo