Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

Getting Your Tubes Tied

Is this common procedure causing uncommon problems?

WebMD Feature

May 1, 2000 (Portland, Ore.) -- When Susan Belcher of Lockport, Ill., had her tubes tied at age 34, she thought the procedure would be simple. She signed a consent form before the surgery and was told by her doctor that she should expect to have few -- if any -- side effects. However, following the surgery, she stopped having her periods. In fact, at the age of 36, she was diagnosed as postmenopausal. Belcher's doctor says she'll need to be on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of her life. "If someone had told me that the surgery could create a hormone imbalance, I never would have done it," she says.

In the United States, about 10 million women have had their tubes tied -- a procedure called tubal ligation -- as a permanent form of birth control since the 1960s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. This makes it the second most popular method after oral contraceptives, according to the CDC.

Recommended Related to Women

"I Hate Asking for Help"

By Cynthia HansonIt's the four-letter word no woman likes to utter. How to ask for what you need. It wasn’t until Kathleen Hornstein realized that she couldn’t move her legs that she finally broke down and asked for help. A 34-year-old Pilates instructor and mom of two, Hornstein was pregnant with twins, and despite being overextended and overtired, she had barely slowed down and prided herself on being able to handle anything that came her way. Then, during her second trimester, as she sat...

Read the "I Hate Asking for Help" article > >

The exact number of women who, like Belcher, claim to have post-tubal ligation syndrome -- a range of symptoms including hot flashes, heavier periods, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mental confusion, and fatigue -- has not been studied, though the syndrome has been a popular topic in Internet chat rooms and support groups. On the other hand, many women report no such symptoms after the surgery.

No Clear Answers

Belcher says her struggle to find an answer has been difficult because many medical experts say that post-tubal ligation syndrome does not exist. "It is a medical myth," says Stephen L. Corson, MD, professor at the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University and Women's Institute in Philadelphia. Corson led a study that compared hormone levels in women who had had tubal ligation versus those of women who had not had the surgery. His study showed no significant difference in the hormone levels of the two groups, indicating that the ovaries were not damaged by the surgery. Numerous other studies, including one conducted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine with results published in the February 1998 issue of the Journal of Fertility and Sterility, also show no evidence to support the syndrome.

However, allegations that the surgery could lead to post-tubal ligation syndrome first surfaced in the 1950s. With the introduction in the 1970s of laparoscopy (the so-called "belly button surgery"), which was less invasive than previous surgeries, more women than ever before chose tubal ligation, and reports of postoperative symptoms increased, says Corson.

A Surprising Possibility

What could be causing the symptoms? According to Corson and other doctors looking into post-tubal ligation "syndrome," it may actually be a combination of discontinuing the use of birth control pills and age-related factors.

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
 
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
insomnia
Is it menopause or something else?
 
Couple with troubles
Article
Bone density illustration
VIDEO
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 
Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow