Permanent Methods of Birth Control

Contraceptive sterilization is a permanent, safe, and highly effective approach for birth control. These methods are meant for people who are sure that they do not desire a pregnancy in the future.

The following methods have a typical use failure rate of less than 1%.

  • Female Sterilization—Tubal ligation or "tying tubes"— A woman can have her fallopian tubes tied (or closed) so that sperm and eggs cannot meet for fertilization. The procedure can be done in a hospital or in an outpatient surgical center. You can go home the same day of the surgery and resume your normal activities within a few days. This method is effective immediately.
  • Transcervical Sterilization— A thin tube is used to thread a tiny device into each fallopian tube. It irritates the fallopian tubes and causes scar tissue to grow and permanently plug the tubes. It can take about three months for the scar tissue to grow, so use another form of birth control during this time. Return to your doctor for a test to see if scar tissue has fully blocked your fallopian tubes.
  • Male Sterilization–Vasectomy—This operation is done to keep a man's sperm from going to his penis, so his ejaculate never has any sperm in it that can fertilize an egg. The procedure is done at an outpatient surgical center. The man can go home the same day. Recovery time is less than one week. After the operation, a man visits his doctor for tests to count his sperm and to make sure the sperm count has dropped to zero; this takes about 12 weeks. Another form of birth control should be used until the man's sperm count has dropped to zero.

Although most women and men who undergo contraceptive sterilization do not regret having had the procedure, the permanence of the method is an important consideration, as regret has been documented in studies. For example, the U.S. Collaborative Review of Sterilization (CREST) study found that women who were younger at the time of the procedure were more likely to experience regret.

An additional issue addressed by the CREST study was the question of whether women who underwent contraceptive sterilization developed a "post-tubal ligation syndrome" of menstrual abnormalities, something that had been debated for years. Results indicated that menstrual abnormalities were no more common among women who had undergone tubal sterilization than among women who had not.

When considering a vasectomy, it's important to understand that failures can occur. CDC research has estimated there is a probability of 11 failures per 1,000 procedures over 2 years; half of the failures occurred in the first three months after the vasectomy, and no failures occurred after 72 weeks. CDC research also examined regret among women whose partner underwent a vasectomy. In interviews with female partners of men who received vasectomies, CDC found that while most women did not regret their husband's vasectomies, the probability of regret over 5 years was about 6%. This is why it is important to know facts about this and other permanent forms of birth control before making a decision.