Asked by Sherry, Illinois
Is it possible for a woman to still get pregnant after having her tubes tied?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
There is a very small chance of becoming pregnant after having fallopian tube sterilization. More than 1 million women have the procedure each year, and according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the risk of getting pregnant is less than 1 percent.
Tubal sterilization aims to prevent pregnancy by blocking an egg and sperm from meeting in the fallopian tube. The procedure may include either cutting and removing a portion of the tubes, using an electric current to burn (cauterize) part of the tubes, sealing off the tubes with a ring or clip, or inserting an implant that creates scar tissue that will eventually block the tubes.
Depending on the type of procedure used, the sterilization may be effective right away or may take a few months to work. Sometimes, a special X-ray test called a hysteropsalpingogram must be performed to make sure the tubes are completely blocked.
If a pregnancy does occur following tubal sterilization, it is more likely to happen if the clip method was used. The risk is also higher in women who had the sterilization done before the age of 30, as well as in women who had an implant placed but did not follow up with the X-ray test to confirm blockage of the tubes.
Pregnancies following tubal sterilization are often "ectopic," which means that the fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, most commonly in a fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies must be treated immediately to prevent harm to the pregnant woman, so it's important to consult with an obstetrician right away if you suspect a pregnancy following tubal sterilization.
Your obstetrician can talk with you in more detail about the risks and benefits of the different types of tubal sterilization, how soon the sterilization is expected to take effect, whether back-up birth control needs to be used for a short period after the procedure, and the chances of becoming pregnant afterward for your specific situation.
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