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

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Tubal ligation is a permanent form of surgical contraception for women.
  • It is usually performed using keyhole surgery.
  • Normally you don't need to stay in hospital overnight.
  • Only consider tubal ligation if you are sure you don’t want to fall pregnant.

What is a tubal ligation?

Tubal ligation is a permanent form of female surgical contraception. If you have a tubal ligation, you will have surgery during which your fallopian tubes are 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. Less than 1 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 are the benefits of tubal ligation surgery?

The main benefit of tubal ligation is that neither you nor your partner should need to use another method of contraception.

What does the operation involve?

If you have a tubal ligation, you will need to have a general anaesthetic. The operation is usually done using keyhole surgery known as laparoscopy. It is normally a day procedure, although an overnight stay in hospital may be possible. The operation usually takes about 20 minutes.

One or two tiny incisions are made in the lower abdomen and a small camera called a 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.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — Our Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

What are the risks and complications of tubal ligation?

After a 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 procedure.

The general side effects and complications of any operation include:

  • a reaction to the anaesthetic, such as feeling or being sick
  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection at the site of the surgery
  • unsightly scarring of the skin
  • development of a hernia in the scar
  • a blood clot in the leg
  • a blood clot in the lung

Specific complications of a tubal ligation procedure include:

  • damage to structures such as the bowel, bladder or blood vessels
  • making a hole in the womb or cervix
  • failure of the procedure, leading to pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy
  • infection of the fallopian tubes or bladder
  • haemorrhage

Can tubal ligation be reversed?

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

If you are thinking about a tubal ligation, talk about the risks and benefits with your partner and your doctor. The procedure is meant to be permanent, although it doesn’t stop you having in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and other forms of assisted reproduction later on.

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

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 a coil, intrauterine device (IUD) or contraceptive implants in the skin of the arm
  • short-acting reversible types of contraception, such as birth control pills, patches or vaginal rings, condoms, the diaphragm, a cervical cap or regular contraceptive injections

The only safe, non-permanent method of male contraception is to use a condom, but the risk of failure is higher.

How soon will I recover?

If you are having a tubal ligation you should be able to go home the same day.

Rest for 1 to 2 days after the operation and take pain relief, such as paracetamol, if you need to.

After a week it is usually safe to resume regular exercise, and this will help in your recovery. Check with your doctor first.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use our Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Resources and support

Do you prefer languages other than English? The Health Translations website has information on contraception choices in a number of languages.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

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 - tubal ligation - 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

Contraception Options and Methods | Marie Stopes Australia

Modern contraception options and methods offer safe and effective ways of preventing pregnancy, helping couples plan their family. Marie Stopes contraception services specialise in the most effective methods at preventing unplanned pregnancy. Contact us today to discuss your options.

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 | Marie Stopes Australia

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

Read more on Marie Stopes Australia 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

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.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus (womb)

Read more on WA Health website

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice 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 and advice

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