- Tubal ligation is a permanent form of contraception for females.
- It is usually done 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 have a baby.
What is a tubal ligation?
Tubal ligation is a procedure to block or cut the fallopian tubes. It is a permanent form of female contraception.
Tubal ligation is very effective at preventing pregnancy. Less than 1 in every 100 females who has a tubal ligation will get pregnant.
Another name for this procedure is laparoscopic sterilisation.
What does a tubal ligation involve?
If you have a tubal ligation, your fallopian tubes will be clipped, cut and tied, or sealed shut.
This stops your eggs from moving from your ovaries to your uterus. It stops sperm from meeting and fertilising an egg.
What are the benefits and risks of tubal ligation surgery?
The main benefit of tubal ligation is that neither you nor your partner need to use another method of contraception. It’s a permanent way to prevent pregnancy.
Tubal ligation does not change your hormones or your menstrual cycle (periods).
It is difficult to reverse tubal ligation.
Having your tubes tied does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
While tubal ligation is very good at preventing pregnancy, it is not 100% effective. There is also a small risk of ectopic pregnancy after having a tubal ligation. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy outside your uterus. It can cause dangerous internal bleeding and needs immediate treatment.
What does the operation involve?
Your doctor will make one or 2 small cuts in your lower abdomen (tummy). A small camera called a laparoscope is used so that the doctor can see your fallopian tubes. Your tubes are then sealed with rings, ties, clips, or heat. Sometimes they are cut and tied.
Sometimes the procedure needs to be done in a different way. This is called a laparotomy, and involves a larger cut in your abdomen (tummy). After a laparotomy, you may need to stay in hospital for a few days to recover.
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How soon will I recover?
If you have laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery, you should be able to go home on the same day that you have your operation.
It takes a few days to recover. The general anaesthetic may make you feel nauseous or tired. You might have abdominal (tummy) pain after the operation.
You’ll need to rest for at least 1 to 2 days after the operation. You may feel more tired than usual for a few weeks. Take pain relief, such as paracetamol, if you need to.
After a week or so, it is usually safe to resume regular activities. Gentle exercise can help you recover. You will need to avoid heavy lifting for a while longer. Check with your doctor first.
What are the possible complications of tubal ligation?
Possible side effects and complications include:
- tummy or shoulder pain
Discuss any risks with your doctor before your operation.
What if I change my mind later? Can tubal ligation be reversed?
It is sometimes possible to have another operation to repair your fallopian tubes after tubal ligation. Only about 1 in 2 females get pregnant after a reversal.
You should only have a tubal ligation if you are sure that you don’t ever want to become pregnant in the future. Make sure you feel certain that you won’t want any more children, even if things change in your life, such as a new relationship.
If you are thinking about a tubal ligation, talk about the risks and benefits with your partner and your doctor. You may also want counselling to talk this decision over.
What are the alternatives to tubal ligation?
There are many alternative methods of contraception. Some of these include:
- permanent male sterilisation — vasectomy
- an intrauterine device (IUD)
- contraceptive implants
- birth control pills
- male contraception using a condom
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Resources and support
The Health Translations website has information on contraception choices, including female sterilisation. This is available in a few languages and in simple text.
You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: November 2022