Female sterilisation

What is female sterilisation?

Female sterilisation, also known as tubal occlusion, is a method of contraception that permanently alters your fertility. It’s for people who don’t want any more children or have decided they don’t want any.

The term female refers to biological sex but we recognise that people who don’t identify as women may also use this method of contraception.

How does it work?

It stops eggs from being fertilised by sperm. The fallopian tubes which carry an egg from the ovary to the womb are cut, sealed or blocked.

How effective is it?

It’s over 99% effective. There are rare occasions in which the tubes can rejoin. This will result in a pregnancy for 1 person in 200 1.

What does the female sterilisation procedure involve?

The female sterilisation procedure is considered a minor operation and many people go home on the same day.

Most people are given a general anaesthetic where they’ll be asleep although it can be done with local anaesthetic if needed. A doctor may make a small cut in your lower abdomen and will insert a thin tube with a light and camera (a laparoscope) so they can see your reproductive organs. Sometimes a wider cut in the lower abdomen (mini laparotomy) is required. They then block, cut or seal the tubes. It takes around 20 minutes.

How long does sterilisation provide protection for?

The procedure is permanent. Reversal operations are difficult, with no guarantees of success and are very unlikely to be available for free from the NHS.

Female sterilisation side effects

Some people experience side effects after their operation, these include:

  • Feeling a little unwell after the operation, this will wear off within a few days.
  • Slight pain or bleeding from your vagina. If it gets worse, talk to your doctor.

Things to consider before getting sterilised

  • Female sterilisation is intended to be permanent and is a very difficult procedure to reverse. It is not suitable for people who may want children in their future.
  • Sterilisation does not prevent you from getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you may want to consider condoms
  • Your doctor may refer you for counselling before you have the operation so you can talk through your decision. If your doctor believes the operation is not in your best interests they can refuse to perform or refer you for the operation.
  • You’ll still have periods after sterilisation. Some people report the periods become heavier or the bleeding pattern changes, but, in many cases, they were using hormonal contraception prior to the operation, which can alter your natural bleeding pattern.
  • Contraception should be used before the operation and after, up until your next period or 3 months depending on the type of sterilisation you had. You can order hormonal contraception from SHL in eligible boroughs of London, Register or Login to find out more.

Can I get female sterilisation on the NHS?

Yes, the female sterilisation procedure is available for free on the NHS. You can also have the operation by paying privately. You can talk to your GP, local sexual health clinic or local contraception clinic.

Other contraception options

There are contraceptives that provide lengthy and effective (up to 10 years) protection from pregnancy, are reversible and don’t require an operation. Read more about the intrauterine device, intrauterine system, the contraceptive implant and the contraceptive injection.

For all other types of contraception see our contraception information pages.

Reviewed by our clinical team: December 2020 (next review date: April 2022)

1. Source: Sexwise Sterilisation (vasectomy and tubal occlusion) - Contraception - Sexwise