In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our March-April 2011 issue, Jane Harrison-Hohner, RN, RNP, a WebMD Women's Health Expert, responded to a reader's question about the pros and cons of getting her tubes tied.
Q: I've had two children and I don't want any more. I'm thinking about getting my tubes tied, but what are the risks?
A: The term "tubes tied" refers to a bilateral tubal ligation (BTL), when a woman's Fallopian tubes are severed and sealed to prevent her eggs from becoming fertilized. BTLs can be done several different ways, including using clips, rings, sutures, and cauterization to seal the tubes shut.
The physical side effects of getting your tubes tied are usually minimal. Recovery from the surgery is relatively quick, and studies show most women don't have any changes afterward in menstruation, sexual function, or moods. There is a slight risk of pregnancy after having a BTL -- about 1.8% -- and if you do get pregnant, there's a 30% chance of it being ectopic (when the fertilized egg lodges in the Fallopian tube). But in general, this is a safe procedure.
Patients often ask me if it's possible to have a BTL reversed. It is, but the procedure is fairly expensive (between $1,500 and $6,500), and it's rarely covered by insurance. There's also no guarantee that you'll get pregnant. Studies indicate that women are able to conceive after the procedure only about 55% of the time.
So it's best to think of a BTL as permanent birth control.