Sterilization

Sterilization

An image of a cord tied in a knot

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks the fallopian tubes so a person can't get pregnant. Penis owners also have a sterilization option—a vasectomy blocks the tubes that carry sperm. It's even safer and more effective than tubal sterilization. Talk to a health care provider to learn more and be sure to ask about state and federal requirements, such as age restrictions and waiting periods.

Types of Sterilizations

Incision

For people with vaginas, Laparoscopy, Mini-laparotomy, and Laparotomy are sterilization procedures that require an incision. Because these methods are surgical, they involve anesthesia. Recovery times vary from 1-2 days to a few weeks.

For those with penises, an incision-based vasectomy takes about 20 minutes. It requires a shot of local anesthetic, then a doctor makes one or two incisions to the scrotum and blocks the tubes so sperm are kept out of the seminal fluid. No sperm, no pregnancy.

Non-incision

The no-scalpel vasectomy method for people with penises involves a tiny puncture that reaches the tubes, where they are then tied off, cauterized, or blocked. There’s no scarring, no stitches, and this procedure is known for healing quite fast without complications.

Details

Total certainty

Before getting sterilized, a person need to be absolutely sure they don't want to have biological children. They can’t count on being able to get their tubes "untied” or undoing a vasectomy.

Who should get the snip?

Sterilization can be done for anyone, so if a person is planning to be with the same partner for a while, talk about who should get the snip.

No hormone worries

For those who don't want to use a hormonal method, this is one option. Plus, sterilization doesn't change a body's natural hormones—they'll still pump through the body just like they did before.

Your family's big enough

For those who have had enough kids already this is an option.

If pregnancy would cause serious health issues

If there's a medical reason why a person shouldn't ever get pregnant, sterilization might be a good way to go.

Hereditary illness or disability

Some people have genes they don't want to pass along to their kids.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, for those with health insurance, chances are good this method is available without out-of-pocket costs. Explore all insurance options at HealthCare.gov or at a state-based marketplace

Prices:

  • This method may be free or low-cost.
  • With Medicaid: free.
  • With insurance: free for women under most plans. For those seeking a vasectomy, there may be a co-pay or you may have to pay a percentage of the cost of the procedure.
  • Without insurance: at full price, sterilization for people with uteruses can cost anywhere from $500 - $5,000; a vasectomy can cost as much as $1,000. Depending on a person's income, they may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get a sterilization procedure at reduced cost.

  • Payment assistance: some hospitals and health centers may offer assistance to people who don’t earn a lot of money but make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Contact the women’s health departments at nearby hospitals or a local Planned Parenthood health center to find out if assistance is available. Title X funding, Medicaid waivers, or other programs that could reduce the cost of sterilization may also be other options.

There are a few different sterilization methods available today, and they fall into two camps: incision methods and non-incision methods.

The incision methods include Laparoscopy, Mini-laparotomy, and Laparotomy. Laparotomy is the most major surgery of the three, but it’s also the least common. It requires a hospital stay for a couple of days and the recovery time can take weeks. Laparoscopy and Mini-Laparotomy are less intense, don't necessarily involve overnight hospitalization, and recovery time is faster.

Non-incision sterilization is simpler and less expensive: actual insertion can take just three to 15 minutes, and a person can go home the same day. It also doesn't require general anesthesia or surgery, and recovery is faster. Plus, no cut means no visible scar. People who choose this method will need to use a back-up birth control method for three months, then have an x-ray to be sure the tubes are totally blocked. 

You can read more about all of these procedures here: Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

Every method has its own positives and negatives, and because everyone's birth control is different what one person experiences may not be the same as another's experiences.

The Positive

  • Have sex without worrying about pregnancy.
  • Do it once, and never have to think about it again.
  • No hormones introduced into the body.

The Negative

  • A very rare risk that the tubes may reconnect themselves—which could lead to a pregnancy.
  • Possible complications with surgery, such as bleeding, infection or a reaction to anesthesia.
Do you have questions about Sterilization? Visit Bedsider.org for answers to many of the most popular questions about this method of birth control.
All content from Bedsider.org, a program of Power to Decide.