For the majority of us, it’s important to remember things to get by in life. You have to remember which bills to pay and what groceries to buy on a daily basis. And while our sex lives may be fun, they’re not exempt from this either. We have to remember to put on condoms, or when we need to have our IUDs or patches replaced, or to take a pill at the same time every day.
But since human memory can be faulty, we might forget to do so, leaving us prone to accidents that soon become little bundles of joy. However, there is a solution to this: permanent birth control methods.
In order to help us all understand these solutions, we’ll run through some of these birth control methods, as well as a few of their side effects.
15 Female Sterilization
Normally, the egg cell that is released each time you ovulate travels from your ovaries down into your fallopian tubes. It then travels further down into the uterus, where it implants if it has been fertilized by a sperm cell. In the meantime, the sperm travels up your vagina, through your cervix and up the uterus. They usually meet up with the egg cell in the fallopian tubes.
Female sterilization is generally done by blocking the passage of the egg cell down, as well as blocking the sperm cells’ travel up. Unlike male sterilization, which is pretty straightforward, there are several ways of doing this.
14 Tubal Occlusion
One method of blocking the fallopian tubes is through tubal occlusion. This is typically done by manually clipping or inserting rings into the fallopian tubes, which serve as sort-of road blocks that prevent the egg from going down the fallopian tubes. This can be done through the use of a laparoscope, a device with a camera on the end that will help your doctor access the tubes.
If a laparoscope is not available, your doctor can still perform this procedure manually through a very small incision. The fallopian tubes can then be clipped, tied or have rings tightened up over them. This process is the most reversible among the methods of female sterilization.
13 Fallopian Implants
Fallopian implants, on the other hand, known in some parts of the world as Essure, the company that developed the implants. These implants are tiny little metal coils that are inserted through hysteroscopy, which is another special device with a camera built for visualizing the female reproductive system.
These metal implants are inserted into your fallopian tubes. Over time, they irritate the lining of the tubes, forming scar tissue that will eventually block the tubes permanently. You will have to take other forms of birth control for a few months while waiting for the scar tissue to form.
12 Tubal Ligation or Salpingectomy
Tubal ligation is the process of cutting the fallopian tubes and then tying both ends. It is sometimes used interchangeably with tubal occlusion. With tubal occlusion, however, the doctor won’t necessarily snip your fallopian tubes. Again, this can be done with a laparoscopy or a minor surgical procedures called the mini laparotomy.
A salpingectomy, on the other hand, is the removal of the entire tubes. This completely removes the risk of ectopic pregnancies that occur in the fallopian tubes. It is also the procedures used to treat ectopic pregnancies themselves.
11 Anesthetic Effects
In female sterilization, your doctor is likely to use a local anesthetic. This is because it doesn’t unnecessarily affect any other organs. It will, of course, cause temporary numbness in the area where it is injected. You might also experience bruising and itchiness at the site of injection. Some women experience dizziness and nausea following the procedures.
Depending on your specific situation and the availability of meds, however, your doctor might opt to give you epidural or general anesthesia instead. Epidural anesthesia is generally safe, but may be more uncomfortable than local anesthesia. General anesthesia, on the other hand, has the most side effects.
10 Post-Operative Complications
Like any surgery, female sterilization carries with it risks. Since this is a relatively small procedure, however, the complications are often limited to the standard risks involved in any operation. There is, of course, the risk for bleeding and hemorrhage, especially in women who have problems with blood clotting.
There is also a risk for infection and abscess, especially if microorganisms were inadvertently introduced into the wound during the procedure. Also, some women may experience pain for some time after the procedure, especially that with implants.
9 Increased Risk for Ectopic Pregnancy
Some female sterilization procedures increase the risk for an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is basically one that occurs outside the uterus. This is usually not a viable pregnancy and in most cases may have to be terminated.
Ectopic pregnancies usually occur in the fallopian tubes, which might happen if the clips or ties on the tubes loosen enough to allow sperm to pass through but the egg cannot exit. Symptoms include severe, sharp abdominal pain on one side of the body, vaginal bleeding and weakness.
8 Male Sterilization: Vasectomy
Male sterilization is basically vasectomy, a process in which the vas deferens is clamped or cut. The vas deferens is basically the tube in which sperm travels from the seminiferous tubules of the testicles to mix with the semen. Because the blockage excludes the prostate and the seminal vesicles, your partner will still be able to ejaculate but the semen will contain no sperm.
Since there are two vas deferens, the doctor will have to snip both of them. Since there will be some sperm left in the tubules for quite some time after the procedure, your partner will have to undergo a sperm count after two months. In the meantime, another form of birth control may be necessary.
7 Anesthetic Effects
As with female sterilization, local anesthesia is the method of choice with vasectomy. This is usually a bit less risky, though, as the operative site is very low in your partner’s body. With female sterilization, the anesthesia must be inserted higher in the body for it to take effect, which has the risk of affecting more organs.
Pretty much the only thing that your partner has to watch out for is a possible allergy to the anesthetic of choice. Check your partner’s history to see if he has a history of allergy or hypersensitivity to the medication itself or similar ones.
6 Post-Operative Complications
As with female sterilization, there is a small risk of post-operative complications such as bleeding and infection. But since, again, it occurs lower in the body and does not involve the puncture of the abdomen, the risks are even smaller.
On the short-term, there may be bruising and pain over the operative site. In general, however, there is typically less pain and other complications with vasectomy as compared with female sterilization procedures.
5 Deciding Between the Two
When you and your partner are thinking of permanent sterilization methods, it can be tricky to decide between getting female or male sterilization. It’s very important to talk about the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
One factor that couples don’t often keep in mind in planning for permanent birth control methods is that it’s extremely important to have a healthy, trusting relationship in order to avoid feelings of regret later on. Ultimately, however, these methods have the advantage of being long-term and low-maintenance.
Overall female sterilization methods have an effectiveness up to 99.5%. With male sterilization, however, effectiveness goes up to 99.9%. While many birth control methods do rival these success rates, both female and male sterilization don’t require you to remember to take a pill, or have an IUD reinserted, or put on a condom.
In comparison, condoms have a 95% success rate when diligently done properly for each sexual encounter. However, these rates can drop down to 85% considering that it may be forgotten or not put on properly.
3 Protection Against STIs
One disadvantage of both male and female sterilization methods is that these do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. They are therefore ideal if you’re in a committed relationship with a single partner or, if not, you still use condoms regularly.
This is because your genitals still maintain physical contact with each other. During intercourse, this contact, as well as the occasional wounds, may result in the transfer of microorganisms. Generally, if you’re not using a condom, you can still transfer and receive STIs.
One worry that many people must consider when going through permanent sterilization methods is this: what if I change my mind? After all, you may be determined not to have kids now, but you never know what you might want in the future.
The answer to this is pretty complicated. It is possible to reverse most methods of sterilization. However, the success rates aren’t that high. That is to say that you can undergo the procedures to regain your fertility but there isn’t any guarantee that they will actually work.
1 Overall Effect
Generally, however, permanent birth control methods are convenient long-term solutions that are ideal for those who don’t plan to have kids, or who already have as many kids as they want.
Most of those who undergo these procedures do say that they don’t regret getting it, even years afterwards. Those who do say that they regret it are typically those who are young. It is therefore advised that you wait until at least around your mid-30s before opting for permanent birth control methods. Otherwise, it might help to talk to a counsellor if you feel doubt about this decision.