In the US, one third of couples attempting to prevent pregnancy, particularly if the woman is > 30, choose sterilization with vasectomy or tubal ligation. Sterilization should be assumed to be permanent. However, if pregnancy is desired, reanastomosis may restore fertility in 45 to 60% of men after vasectomy and in 50 to 80% of women after tubal ligation. Also, in vitro fertilization may be used successfully.
Male Sterilization (Vasectomy)
For this procedure, the vasa deferentia are cut, and the cut ends are ligated or fulgurated. Vasectomy can be done in about 20 min; a local anesthetic is used. Sterility requires about 20 ejaculations after the operation and should be documented by 2 sperm-free ejaculates, usually obtained 3 mo after the operation. A back-up contraceptive method should be used until that time.
Mild discomfort for 2 to 3 days after the procedure is common. Taking NSAIDs and not attempting ejaculation are recommended during this period.
Complications of vasectomy include hematoma (≤ 5%), sperm granulomas (inflammatory responses to sperm leakage), and spontaneous reanastomosis, which usually occurs shortly after the procedure. The cumulative pregnancy rate is 1.1% at 5 yr.
In this procedure, the fallopian tubes are cut and a segment is excised or the tubes are closed by ligation, fulguration, or various mechanical devices (plastic bands, spring-loaded clips). Alternatively, the tubes can be occluded. Sterilization that uses mechanical devices causes less tissue damage and thus may be more reversible.
One of several methods may be used; they include
Tubal ligation can be done during cesarean delivery or 1 to 2 days after vaginal delivery via a small periumbilical incision (via laparoscopy). Laparoscopic methods of tubal sterilization are traditionally done as an interval procedure (unrelated to pregnancy), usually > 6 wk after delivery and in the operating room; a general anesthetic is used. The cumulative failure rate of tubal sterilization is about 1.8% at 10 yr; however, certain techniques have higher failure rates than others. Postpartum procedures have a lower failure rate than some laparoscopic methods.
For hysteroscopic sterilization,clinicians, using hysteroscopic guidance, occlude the lumen of the fallopian tubes by inserting microinserts with coils. The coils consist of an outer layer of a nickel/titanium alloy and an inner layer of stainless steel and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The PET fibers stimulate an ingrowth reaction that occludes the tubes.
Advantages of hysteroscopic sterilization over tubal ligation include the following:
A comparative disadvantage is that after microinserts are placed, sterility is delayed for up to 3 mo because the reaction that occludes the tubes takes several weeks. Often, clinicians recommend that women use another contraceptive method for 3 mo after the procedure. Women should choose a method (eg, depot medroxyprogesterone) that stabilizes the endometrium and allows visualization during hysteroscopy. This method can be used until tubal occlusion is confirmed by hysterosalpingography 3 mo after sterilization. If women are allergic to radiopaque dyes, ultrasonography can be used to confirm tubal occlusion.
Minilaparotomy is sometimes used instead of laparoscopic sterilization, usually when women want to be sterilized soon after delivery of a baby. It requires a general, regional, or local anesthetic. It involves a small abdominal incision (about 2.5 to 7.6 cm) and removal of a section of each fallopian tube. Compared with laparoscopy, minilaparotomy caused more pain, and recovery takes slightly longer.
After laparoscopic or minilaparotomy sterilization, clinicians recommend that women do not place anything in the vagina (eg, tampons, douches) and that they do not have sexual intercourse for about 2 wk.
Adverse effects of female sterilization are uncommon. Some of these complications include
Last full review/revision June 2013 by Laura Sech; Penina Segall-Gutierrez, MD, MSc; Emily Silverstein; Daniel R. Mishell, Jr., MD
Content last modified August 2013