Contraception Sterilization

If you’re sure you don’t want children, sterilization is a virtually permanent option to prevent pregnancy. Sterilization methods are available for both women (tubal sterilization) and men (vasectomy). Sterilization prevents pregnancy either by blocking eggs from reaching the uterus (in women) or sperm from reaching the semen (in men).

Female Sterilization

Female sterilization is also called tubal sterilization, tubal ligation, or “tying the tubes.” Eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. In a traditional tubal sterilization, the surgeon makes a small incision and uses special tools to cauterize (or burn shut) the fallopian tubes. Alternately, she can use a small clip, a ring, sutures, or rubber bands to close the tubes.

Tubal Ligation - Sterilization

Traditional tubal sterilization is a surgical procedure that requires general anesthesia. Risks of tubal sterilization include:

  • An adverse reaction to the anesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Damage to nearby organs
  • Infection.

Although deaths as a result of tubal ligation surgery are rare, they do occur.

Essure®, a device used to block the fallopian tubes, is a tubal sterilization method that recently became available. It involves no general anesthesia or incision. Your doctor inserts Essure® into the fallopian tubes using a catheter that goes in through the vagina and uterus.

Male Sterilization

The most common form of male sterilization is called a vasectomy. Sperm gets into the semen from each testicle through a tube called the “vas deferens.” During a vasectomy, the doctor cuts both the right and left tubes so that sperm can no longer traverse to the ejaculatory duct. This sterilization method is simple, safe, and it only takes about half an hour. Risks of vasectomy sterilization include bleeding and/or infection.

Vasectomy - Sterilization

The Effectiveness of Sterilization Methods

Sterilization methods are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, with a low risk of pregnancy after either tubal sterilization or vasectomy. According to staff, in the first year after a vasectomy, only about 15 out of 10,000 couples become pregnant. Information from the National Institutes of Health states that for women who have had tubal ligation, about 1 in 200 becomes pregnant down the line because the tubes were not completely closed.

Choosing Sterilization

Both the benefit and drawback to sterilization is its permanence. Sterilization methods of contraception are only appropriate for people who are sure they don’t want children. If you have any doubts about wanting children, you may want to consider other forms of birth control.

Although you may be able to reverse both a tubal ligation and vasectomy, these major procedures are expensive, require a hospital stay, and aren’t always effective. When considering the option of sterilization methods, be clear on what you want, and discuss all options with your partner and your healthcare provider.


American Academy of Family Physicians Staff. (n.d.). Vasectomy: What to expect. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from the Family Doctor Web site:

Medline Plus Staff. (n.d.). Tubal ligation. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from the National Institutes of Health Web site: