Tubal ligation is a birth control method that is sometimes referred to as “getting your tubes tied” or female sterilization. The process of tubal ligation is thought to be one of the most reliable and permanent forms of birth control, and it’s a popular option, with around one in four couples deciding it’s the right choice for them.
So if it’s so permanent and reliable, why are we talking about pregnancy after tubal ligation? Is that even possible? Well, it’s not common, but it can happen. Here’s what you should know about becoming pregnant after tubal ligation.
In this article: 📝
- How common is pregnancy after tubal ligation?
- Is tubal ligation permanent?
- What happens if you get pregnant with your tubes tied?
How common is pregnancy after tubal ligation?
Before we talk about pregnancy after tubal ligation, let’s do a quick recap of how the procedure works.
How does tubal ligation work?
Normally, during ovulation, an egg is released from your ovary and then pulled into the fallopian tubes. If sperm is waiting in the fallopian tubes for the egg, and fertilization is successful, the egg moves down through the fallopian tubes and implants in the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, it is reabsorbed by the body and your period begins.
Tubal ligation prevents pregnancy by cutting or blocking the fallopian tubes. Your ovaries still release an egg, but it can’t be fertilized because there is a cut or blockage in the fallopian tube preventing the sperm from meeting the egg. So instead of getting pregnant, the egg is reabsorbed by the body and your period starts.
There are a few different methods of tubal ligation, and your chances of getting accidentally pregnant afterward might vary based on the surgery method. One method, Essure – which is when small implants are inserted in the fallopian tubes to form scar tissue – is seen to be the most effective and cannot generally be reversed. If you’re considering the surgery, it’s worth discussing the technique your doctor routinely uses and the pros and cons of each.
What are the chances of pregnancy after tubal ligation?
In some rare cases, the fallopian tubes can open up or grow back together on their own after tubal ligation, making pregnancy possible. Generally, this is more likely in women who are younger when they have tubal ligation surgery or when surgical errors have been made.
So, how common is pregnancy after tubal ligation? Globally, the figure is roughly one in 200 women getting pregnant after tubal ligation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports between 18 and 37 per 1000 women may get pregnant in the 10 years post-tubal ligation (that’s two to four percent).
In one US study that followed over 10,000 women, pregnancy was recorded in around 1.3% of participants — that’s 143 pregnancies. So, figures vary. Whichever number you look at, it’s important to understand that pregnancy after tubal ligation is rare.
Is tubal ligation permanent?
Basically, yes. If there’s any chance you might decide to have children in the future, tubal ligation is not for you.
If you have a change of heart, some tubal ligation methods can be reversed later in life, although success rates of subsequent pregnancies vary wildly.
What happens if you get pregnant with your tubes tied?
So, can you carry a baby if your tubes are tied? Yes. Your uterus, cervix, and birth canal are not affected by the surgery, so it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth after having tubal ligation surgery. As long as a fertilized egg makes it into your uterus, your pregnancy should proceed normally. Many women use IVF to achieve pregnancy after tubal ligation.
A risk of tubal ligation is that you may be more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy than the general female population. An ectopic pregnancy is where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. The pregnancy isn’t viable, and it can be dangerous if not treated early.
Since tubal ligation shouldn’t affect your menstrual cycle, it’s worth being aware of when your period is late and if you are experiencing early signs of pregnancy after tubal ligation (nausea, cravings, breast tenderness, etc.). If you’ve had a tubal ligation and think you might be pregnant, call your doctor asap to make sure everything is going smoothly and to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.