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Male and Female Sterilization Explained

Let’s learn more about the permanent birth control options available as we take a closer look at male and female sterilization. We’ll cover what sterilization involves, how effective it is, and we’ll also touch on some long-acting contraceptive alternatives. Read on to find out more...

What is female sterilization?

Female sterilization involves blocking the fallopian tubes by either attaching clips, loops, or cutting a piece of the tube. This prevents the female egg cell from traveling down the fallopian tube, meaning it cannot be fertilized. The female sterilization procedure is relatively simple, and in most cases, the patient can go home the same day.

What is male sterilization or vasectomy? 

A simple surgical procedure, male sterilization (also known as a vasectomy) involves cutting or blocking the small tubes in the scrotum that carries sperm cells. This stops them from leaving the body so they can’t fertilize a female egg cell. Vasectomies are typically a very quick procedure and patients can go home the same day. There are two types of vasectomy, incision vasectomy, and no-cut vasectomy. Depending on your case, your doctor will advise on the type of procedure that suits you.

How soon can I have sex after getting a vasectomy/sterilization procedure? 

There is no biological reason for sterilization to affect your libido (sex drive). This is because our desire for sex is regulated by the male or female sex hormones (testosterone or estrogen) and these hormones are not affected by the procedure. 

Keep in mind that having sex too soon after the procedure may result in pain during sex, so you should wait until it’s comfortable to do so. For female sterilization, there is no set time frame for when you are able to have sex again, so it’s up to you to decide when you’re ready after the operation. For male sterilization, it’s advised you wait at least one week before having intercourse after a vasectomy.

How effective is sterilization?

Both vasectomies and female sterilization are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. As with all birth control methods, it can never be guaranteed to be 100% effective, but the risk of pregnancy is extremely low. However, be aware that sterilization isn’t effective immediately. 

For female sterilization, you may have to wait until your next period before you can rely on sterilization as a method of birth control, while a vasectomy only becomes effective after three months and you’ll need to use another birth control method in the meantime if you want to prevent pregnancy. 

Things to consider before getting a vasectomy or sterilization 

As with any surgical procedure, there are certain risks you should be aware of before getting a vasectomy or sterilization and it’s important you talk these through with your doctor before committing to the procedure.

Female sterilization does not affect sex hormones, and you’ll still get your period after the operation. As the fallopian tubes are blocked, the egg cell that is released will simply absorb back into the body.

Similarly, if you get a vasectomy, you will still produce ejaculate. However, this ejaculate will not contain sperm cells. These are absorbed harmlessly back into the body.

Reversing sterilization

Whether male or female sterilization, this procedure should always be viewed as a permanent birth control option. While in some cases sterilization or vasectomy can be reversed, this is never guaranteed and the success rate is subject to a number of factors. 

For example, reversal of a vasectomy gets less likely over time. Up to three years after the procedure there is a 75% successful reversal rate, this drops to 55% after three to eight years, and after this, the success rate continues to drop until reversal is extremely unlikely. 

Female sterilization should also be viewed as a permanent birth control method. In some cases, it can be reversed, but this is a difficult procedure that involves removing the blocked part of the fallopian tubes and rejoining the ends. Reversal of female sterilization is more likely if the tubes were clipped and not tied in the original operation. 

Other longer-term birth control options

If you’re looking for a contraceptive option that you don’t need to think about every day, but that’s not a permanent birth control method, there are a few options you can consider. We’ve put together a list of the longer-term birth control options on offer:

The implant

The birth control implant is a small, thin rod that’s inserted under the skin on the inside of the upper arm. The implant works by releasing hormones over a period of time, this stops ovulation (the release of an egg cell) from happening. 

The implant is inserted by a doctor or nurse and then can stay in place for up to five years when it needs to be removed (or swapped for a new one) by a healthcare professional. This method is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

The hormonal IUD

Intrauterine devices (or IUDs) are small T-shaped pieces of plastic that are inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. Like the implant, the hormonal IUD works by releasing hormones to stop ovulation, while also thickening cervical mucus

Depending on the brand, hormonal IUDs may last for up to seven years before they need to be removed or changed out for a new one. This method is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Copper IUD 

The copper IUD is like the hormonal IUD, except instead of synthetic hormones, it contains a small amount of copper. This copper creates a hostile environment in the uterus, preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. Copper IUDs must be inserted and removed by healthcare professionals, but once inserted they can work for as long as ten years. This method is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

The birth control shot/injection

The injection is less long-lasting than the previous methods listed, but it doesn’t require you to think about it every day. Shots are given approximately every three months and are administered on fleshy parts of the body such as the buttocks, thighs, upper arms, or abdomen. 

Usually, the injection is given by a healthcare professional, but in some cases, you might be able to carry out the shot yourself at home. This hormonal birth control method works by releasing hormones to stop ovulation, while also thickening cervical mucus. In terms of birth control effectiveness, the birth control shot is >99% effective with perfect use, and 96% effective with typical use (this takes into account user error, such as forgetting to get the shot on time). 

Prevent pregnancy while getting to know your body better

Thanks for checking out this post on male and female sterilization, we hope you found it useful! At Natural Cycles we believe in promoting contraceptive choice and creating better awareness around the different birth control options available. 

Natural Cycles is a non-hormonal birth control option that learns the pattern of your unique cycle so you can prevent pregnancy while learning more about your body. If you’re looking for a new birth control method, why not find out if Natural Cycles could be right for you?

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

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Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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