Sterilization for Women and Men
Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control and a very effective way to prevent pregnancy. It requires a woman or a man to have surgery. The most common sterilization procedure for women is called tubal sterilization. The procedure for men is called vasectomy.
Making the Decision
Sterilization is an elective procedure. This means you can choose whether to have it done. It should be thought of as lifelong.
Because sterilization is a major decision, you should avoid making this choice during times of stress (such as during a divorce or after losing a pregnancy).
If you are sterilized and you change your mind after the operation, attempts to reverse it may not work.
Sterilization does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Condoms should be used for protection against STDs.
Sterilization for Women
All of a woman's reproductive organs are in her pelvis.
In a sterilization procedure, both fallopian tubes are closed by being cut, tied or sealed. This prevents the egg from moving down the tube and keeps the sperm from reaching the egg.
Tubal sterilization can be done in a number of ways. The methods used most often are laparoscopy, minilaparotomy and hysteroscopy. Some women may choose sterilization to be done after giving birth. This is called postpartum sterilization. If you are having a cesarean birth, sterilization may be performed at the same time, without the need for additional surgery or a prolonged hospital stay.
Tubal sterilization does not cause your menstrual periods to change. However, if you used birth control pills before you have the surgery, it may take a while to return to your normal cycle. Tubal sterilization does not affect your ability to have or enjoy sex.
Most methods of sterilization in women are effective right away. This means birth control is no longer needed. However, with hysteroscopic sterilization, another method of birth control must be used for three months after the procedure. At that time, an X-ray can be done to ensure the tubes are blocked.
As with any surgery, sterilization has some risk. Serious complications, such as infections, bowel injuries, bleeding, burns or complications from anesthesia, are very uncommon. Most of the time, the problems can be treated and corrected.
The risk of getting pregnant after tubal sterilization is very low (less than one percent). However, sometimes the sterilization does not work and a woman can get pregnant. In women who have had tubal sterilization and get pregnant, more than half of these pregnancies are ectopic.
Sterilization for Men
The man provides the sperm that fertilizes the woman's egg. When the man ejaculates (climaxes) during sex, semen travels out through the penis and into the woman's vagina.
In a vasectomy, the vasa are tied, cut, clipped or sealed to prevent the release of sperm. This prevents a woman's egg from being fertilized with the man's sperm.
A vasectomy may be done in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. The man can go home the same day. The procedure is simple and works very well. There are rarely any serious side effects.
Unlike tubal sterilization in women, a vasectomy is not effective right away. Some sperm still may be in the tubes. For this reason, a couple must use an-other method of birth control until a return visit to the doctor or clinic for a final sperm count (in which the number of sperm in a semen sample are counted). It takes about one month to three months for the semen to become totally free of sperm.
After a vasectomy, a man's sexual function does not change. A man can have sex again as soon as he feels ready.
Vasectomy is highly effective — less than one percent of vasectomies fail to prevent pregnancy.
Factors That Affect Choice
The method of sterilization a man or a woman chooses will depend on: