Can you reverse a female sterilization?

The answer to this question is complicated- the short answer is maybe.. and here is the long answer!

First let’s look at Tubal Ligation (female sterilization). This procedure is done to prevent pregnancy. There are two tubes (Fallopian tubes) in the womb: at the end of these tubes, the woman’s egg waits for the sperm to fertilize it. In tubal ligation, we simply block these tubes, so that the egg and sperm cannot meet. We do this either by:

  1. Sealing the tubes with a clip or a ring
  2. Burning (cauterizing) the tubes so that they become blocked with scar tissue
  3. Cutting the tubes and then tying them closed

The procedure is classified as a permanent method of birth control as reversal is difficult and not often successful.

So what happens if you have had this done and want to fall pregnant? Can it be reversed? Yes it can, but the success depends on many factors:

  1. Your age (the older you are, the less likely)
  2. The type of tubal ligation you had (some are easier to reverse- for example clips)
  3. The health of your reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, length of the remaining fallopian tubes, have you had PID before, do you have endometriosis, etc.)
  4. Time since you had the procedure (more recent will make it easier)
  5. Did you have any successful pregnancies before the procedure?

If your doctor is happy that there may be a good chance of success you will need to have a number of tests done before the reversal- blood tests, ultrasound of the uterus and ovaries for example. Your partner will also need to have his sperm count checked. All this is to see if there will be any other factors affecting you ability to fall pregnant.

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Once the sterilization is reversed, in general success rates for a healthy pregnancy are between 40-80% and the best chance is within the first year.

Risk: Pregnancy outside the womb

Since the tube has been damaged in the first operation, it’s possible that after the doctor repairs the tube, there still remains a gap somewhere. This means the fertilized egg can escape from the womb, resulting in a pregnancy happening outside the womb – this is a potentially life-threatening condition.

Are there any other options?

The good news is yes- there are! In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF) can be done. This is when the egg is fertilized by the sperm outside the womb in a laboratory, and then placed straight into your womb to grow. This means the sperm doesn’t have to travel through the damaged tube – isn’t medicine great!?

IVF has a few risks of its own, so it would be best to chat to your doctor about what is best for you.

Author: Dr Lynelle Hoeks