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A Guide to Bilateral Tubal Ligation

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: BStone • updated: 5/16/2011

The tubal ligation procedure is used as a permanent form of birth control by severing the fallopian tubes. This surgery is considered to be effective but there are certain risks and complications involved.

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    Bilateral tubal ligation is a surgery used to prevent birth. With about 700,000 of these procedures performed each year in the United States, it's one of the most common procedures performed. A tubal ligation procedure is conducted to prevent sperm from fertilizing eggs, as a result a woman becomes sterile and pregnancy isn't possible.

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    The Procedure

    During the tubal ligation procedure, an anesthesia is used, while small incisions are made in the abdomen, commonly near the navel. A laparoscope, a small flexible tube, is then inserted into the incisions. With these tubes in place, small instruments are inserted to reach the fallopian tubes, where the tubes are then severed or clipped closed. The tubes can be severed, cauterized or clipped to prevent pregnancy. After the instruments are removed, the incisions are then closed using few stitches. This procedure is often performed as an outpatient procedure. However, it's most commonly performed after childbirth, in which case hospitalization will be required.

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    Recovery

    Recovery from a tubal ligation procedure is usually only a few days. Pain medications are often prescribed to manage the pain that can occur after the procedure. It’s often advised exercise and sexual activity are avoided for several days to allow the area to heal. A follow up appointment may be required. It’s recommended a second form of birth control is used for no less than 3 months after the procedure, at which point a test will be conducted to ensure proper sterilization has occurred.

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    Risks

    Although the bilateral tubal ligation procedure is considered to be safe, there are certain risks involved with the surgery. As with any surgical procedure conducted under anesthesia, there is the risk for allergic reaction to the anesthesia used. Other risks include infections and bleeding. Injury to surrounding organs and tissues can occur from the use of the instruments during the procedure.

    This procedure is considered to be the most effective and permanent form of birth control; however, pregnancy can still occur. In 1 out of every 200 tubal ligation procedures, pregnancy can occur. This usually occurs from the tubes reconnecting, the procedure being conducted poorly or the rings or clips that were used fall off. In some cases, ligaments in the area are mistaken for the fallopian tubes and severed instead of the fallopian tubes. Pregnancy can occur if the tubes weren’t closed completely. In some cases, a woman may be pregnant prior to the procedure but the pregnancy goes undetected until afterwards. If this is the case, it isn’t considered to be a failed procedure.

    If pregnancy does occur after a tubal ligation procedure has been conducted, ectopic pregnancy is likely to occur. If an ectopic pregnancy occurs, it can become a life threatening condition. The pregnancy must be terminated and removed to prevent serious and potentially deadly complications.

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    References:

    "Tubal Sterilization" http://www.emedicinehealth.com/tubal_sterilization/page4_em.htm

    "Bilateral Tubal Ligation" http://www.bilateraltuballigation.net/