Surgical sterilization

Either you or your partner may wish to undergo surgery to permanently prevent pregnancy. A woman may have tubal ligation, a procedure in which her "tubes are tied." A man may have a vasectomy, which keeps sperm from being ejaculated.

Availability Surgical procedure

How it's done

During tubal ligation, a woman's fallopian tubes are cut and tied. She is usually under general anesthesia during this procedure, and a hospital stay may or may not be required. A tubal ligation can be done immediately after delivery, about six weeks after delivery or at any time after that.

A vasectomy may be done in a doctor's office with a local anesthetic. In this procedure, a man's vas deferentia — ducts through which the sperm travel — are cut and sealed.

Effectiveness for tubal ligation

In the first year following a tubal ligation, the chance of your becoming pregnant is less than 1 percent, meaning fewer than one woman out of 100 will become pregnant in the first year after a tubal ligation. Over time, it's possible that the tubes could fuse together and make it possible to become pregnant. After 10 years, failure rates as high as 5 percent have been reported in women who had the surgery early in their reproductive years. Failure rates are lower in women who are older when they have the procedure.

Effectiveness for vasectomy

The failure rate is less than 1 percent for vasectomy, meaning fewer than one woman out of 100 will become pregnant in the first year after her partner has had a vasectomy. However, vasectomy doesn't provide immediate protection against pregnancy. Most men become free of sperm after eight to 10 ejaculations. Until your doctor determines that the ejaculate doesn't contain sperm, another form of birth control needs to be used.

Issues to consider

Surgical sterilization isn't easily reversed. When a tubal ligation is reversed, it may carry an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Before undergoing sterilization, be sure that you don't wish to have any more children. If you are a woman and have a medical condition that makes surgery risky, talk to your doctor about your options. All surgeries carry certain risks, such as bleeding and infection.

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