Is female sterilisation reversible?
A procedure to cut, seal or block a woman's fallopian tubes is a form of sterilisation, a permanent form of contraception.
However, if a woman's circumstances change, and she'd like to have children, can this procedure be reversed?
The answer is yes, the procedure can be reversed with fallopian tubes being reconnected, but this doesn't necessarily mean fertility will be restored so that she can become pregnant.
Sterilisation reversal is not usually available on the NHS, so would need to be paid for privately.
Re-connecting fallopian tubes
The surgery to re-connect fallopian tubes is called 'tubal reversal surgery' or tubal re-anastomosis.
Tubal reversal surgery is performed either through a laparoscopy or a laparotomy. Under magnification from special operating lenses or a microscope, both obstructed ends of the fallopian tubes are transected (cut transversely), then the inner portion (called the muscularis) of both segments of tube and then the outer layers (called the tubal serosa) are tied together. Dye is then injected through the cervix to demonstrate potency of each re-connected tube.
After a laparotomy, the hospital stay may be as short as one or two nights. Post-operative recovery may take three to six weeks. Recovery is much faster following laparoscopic surgery, and the woman may be able to go home within hours. As the procedure is rarely provided by the NHS, you’ll likely need to pay for it to be done privately.
The success rate of a tubal reversal surgery depends on two major factors:
- The original surgery done for the sterilisation (the specialist will need a copy of the operative report describing the surgical method used in the original procedure) and the remaining length of the fallopian tube. Tubal re-anastomosis surgery is more successful after tubal sterilisation performed by cutting or the placement of rings or clips to block the tube.
- Adequate tubal length (pregnancy is least likely to occur in women with shortened fallopian tubes of less than 4cm).
For women with severely scarred tubes or other factors that make tubal re-anastamosis less likely to be successful, in vitro fertilisation may be a better alternative.