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Birth Control Health Center

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Birth Control and Sterilization

Birth control, like sterilization, is a way for men and women to prevent pregnancy. There are many different methods of birth control; some types also protect against sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.

Sterilization is a permanent form of birth control that is extremely effective at preventing pregnancy. But it is difficult to reverse if you change your mind, and it does not protect against STDs. Both men and women can be sterilized. For women, a tubal ligation is performed; for men, a vasectomy is performed. Women have the option of tubal ligation surgery or the placement of a device called Essure.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free women’s preventive services, including mammograms, birth control and well-woman visits. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

What Is Essure?

Essure is a form of permanent sterilization for women that is hormone-free. Placement of the device is done without surgery in the doctor's office and without the need for general anesthesia (being put to sleep).

How Is Essure Placed?

Essure is a tiny birth control device that looks like a spring. Doctors use a thin tube to thread an Essure device through the vagina, into the uterus, and then into the two fallopian tubes. Thus, each woman receives two Essure devices.

A mesh-like substance that's embedded in the Essure device irritates the lining of the fallopian tubes, causing scarring that over time permanently blocks the tube.

How Effective Is Essure?

Essure is a very effective form of permanent birth control with clinical studies showing that it's 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. Because the scarring occurs over time, women should take another form of birth control for three months after the procedure. After this the doctor will take a special X-ray to verify that the fallopian tubes are blocked and you can rely on the inserts for birth control. 

Does Essure Protect Against STDs?

No. Sterilization does not protect against STDs, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Male latex condoms provide the best protection from most STDs.

What Is Tubal Ligation?

Tubal ligation, or female sterilization, is surgery to "tie the tubes" (fallopian tubes) of a woman, which causes permanent sterility by preventing transport of the egg to the uterus. This also blocks the passage of sperm up the tube where fertilization normally occurs.

An estimated 700,000 American women undergo tubal ligation each year, making it the most common form of contraception in the U.S.

How Is Tubal Ligation Done?

Tubal ligation is performed in a hospital or outpatient surgical clinic while you are anesthetized (put to sleep). One or two small incisions (cuts) are made in the abdomen, and a device similar to a small telescope (called a laparoscope) is inserted. Using instruments that are inserted through the laparoscope, the fallopian tubes are sealed shut. The skin incisions are then stitched closed. The patient is able to return home within a few hours after the procedure. Tubal ligation can be performed immediately after childbirth through a small incision near the navel or during a cesarean delivery.

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