What Is Tubal Ligation?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 19, 2023
3 min read

Tubal ligation is surgery women can get to "tie” their fallopian tubes. It’s a type of female sterilization.

The goal is to prevent eggs from traveling from the ovaries to the uterus, so you can’t get pregnant.

You can get tubal ligation done in a hospital or at an outpatient surgical clinic. You will get anesthesia, so you won’t feel anything.

The surgeon will make one or two small cuts in your belly and may pump in gas to inflate it so they can see inside better. They’ll use a long, thin device similar to a small telescope (called a laparoscope) to cut, seal, band, clamp, or tie your fallopian tubes shut. The doctor will then stitch up your cuts, and you can go home a few hours later.

Tubal ligation is almost -- but not quite -- 100% effective. There is a slight risk of becoming pregnant after tubal ligation. That can happen if the tubes grow back together, which is very rare. This “failure rate” is 0.5%.

You may have pain in your belly for a few days after the procedure. If your doctor used gas in your belly, it can also cause some shoulder pain. You might also notice fatigue, dizziness, or bloating.

Your medical team will talk with you about how to manage these side effects and when you can return to your normal activities, but it’s usually within a few days. They may tell you to avoid sex for about a week and heavy lifting for a few weeks. Keep the cuts dry for at least 48 hours.

As with any procedure, tubal ligation can have some risks. They include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to other organs or major blood vessels
  • Side effects caused by anesthesia
  • A fertilized egg that implants outside the uterus (ectopic pregnancy)

Complications may be more likely if you have:

Call your doctor if you notice any of these problems after your procedure:

  • A temperature over 100.4 F
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Redness or swelling around the wound
  • Severe pain that doesn’t go away
  • Bleeding through your bandage
  • Bad-smelling discharge from the wound

Depending on where you are and what kind of procedure you have, a tubal ligation can cost between $1,500 and $6,000. It is usually covered by insurance.

In some cases, it’s possible to reverse tubal ligation. But it’s major surgery that requires a couple of days in a hospital.

There is a good chance that you might not be able to get it reversed. It depends on what method of tubal ligation you got, how long ago that was, and whether your tubes are too damaged to undo it.

Reversing a tubal ligation raises your chances of an ectopic pregnancy.

No. The procedure is just about preventing pregnancy. Male condoms provide the best protection from most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.