Female sterilisation is also known as tubal ligation or getting your tubes tied.
What is it?
Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception, meaning that once a woman has had the procedure she will not be able to get pregnant.
How does it work?
Female sterilisation involves cutting, blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes, preventing an egg from travelling into the womb. This is done under either general or local anaesthetic, and requires a hospital stay of at least a day.
Women who have been sterilised still ovulate and have periods, but since the egg cannot travel past the fallopian tubes it is absorbed by the body.
How effective is it?
Sterilisation is over 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy and is considered permanent.
What are the advantages?
Sterilisation is designed to be permanent, so you won’t need to think about contraception again after this procedure.
What are the downsides?
It is not 100 per cent effective, and in a very small number of cases the fallopian tubes rejoin and the woman becomes fertile again. This is approximately one in two hundred women. However, it also is not easily reversed, so it is important to be absolutely certain that being sterilised is right for you.
Things to bear in mind
Being sterilised is a big decision to take, and your doctor will probably recommend you attend counselling before going ahead, so that you can fully explore all of the issues. It is not often offered to young women who have not had any children.
Being sterilised does not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, like a condom does.
Where can I get it from and how much does it cost?
You can be referred for free sterilisation on the NHS by a doctor. This can be your GP, another GP who you have registered with for family planning services, or a doctor at a family planning or sexual health clinic.
The waiting list on the NHS may be quite long and so it is also possible to pay for private treatment, which costs from around £1000 to £1385.