What is a Bilateral Tubal Ligation?

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  • Written By: Christina Whyte
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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A bilateral tubal ligation is a type of female sterilization surgery, commonly known as 'having your tubes tied.' It is used to permanently prevent pregnancy by blocking or severing the fallopian tubes so that sperm cannot meet an egg. It is a very effective method of birth control for women who definitely do not wish to become pregnant in the future.

During bilateral tubal ligation surgery, both fallopian tubes are blocked or severed. There are a few different methods used, including cutting and cauterizing, removing sections of the fallopian tubes, or sealing the tubes using clips or rings. Different surgeons will have different preferences, and some patient characteristics, such as nickel allergy, may determine which method will be used. A patient should talk to her doctor about the method that will be used and its safety and effectiveness.

Tubal ligation is usually performed under general anesthesia, but is sometimes performed with local or regional anesthesia. Laparoscopic surgical techniques are usually used for bilateral tubal ligation, in which an instrument with a viewing lens is inserted through a small incision, and another instrument used for the actual surgery is inserted through the same or a second small incision. The surgery takes about 30 minutes and the patient can usually return home later the same day and resume normal activities after a couple of days.


Like any surgery, there are a few risks involved with having a bilateral tubal ligation. Most are standard to any surgery and include bleeding, infection, or reacting negatively to anesthesia. There is a slight risk of other organs and tissues being damaged by the surgical instruments. Choosing a surgeon who has performed many successful bilateral tubal ligation procedures will increase the chances of a good outcome with no complications.

As a birth control method, tubal ligation does have a couple of disadvantages. It is possible, though rare, to become pregnant after tubal ligation if the fallopian tubes reattach. If this does occur, the pregnancy is more likely to be ectopic, implanting in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus, which is a dangerous situation. Sterilization does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or regulate the menstrual cycle.

Bilateral tubal ligation should be considered permanent. Sometimes, surgeons can reverse a tubal ligation for a woman who later wishes to become pregnant, but this is a much more complicated and serious surgery and is only effective for 50-80% of women who undergo it. The permanent nature of tubal ligation is both an advantage and a disadvantage, and women considering sterilization need to carefully consider the different options available and be certain that sterilization is the right choice.


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