A common question amongst women who have undergone surgical sterilization is, if they can get pregnant with tubes tied. Undergoing surgical sterilization or “having your tubes tied,” is a method of birth control. If you have had this done and your period is late, you may be a bit worried. This article will answer the question if you can get pregnant or not, risks involved, and when to call your doctor.
Can I Get Pregnant If My Tubes Are Tied?
The answer is, yes. You can get pregnant after a tubal ligation, but the chances are very low. A tubal ligation surgically blocks off the opening to the fallopian tubes where the egg is released into the uterus. During your cycle, your body releases an egg from either one of the ovaries. It travels down through the fallopian tube and at any point in the tube or just outside it can come in contact with sperm. If fertilized, it will continue to move down and nestle into your uterus.
Tying your fallopian tubes involves going into your belly through a tiny incision with an instrument called a laparoscope. Each tube is snipped in two and tied off, and/or burned to seal them. It is a quick and easy surgery done under general anesthesia. You will still have normal periods every month, but the egg that is released has very little chance of becoming fertilized.
Chances of Pregnancy after Tubal Ligation
While having your tubes tied has the highest rate of pregnancy prevention, it is still not 100% effective. On average, around 5 out of every 100 women who undergo tubal ligation do get pregnant. The chances of becoming pregnant go down with your age:
- 5 percent of women who are 28 years old or younger may get pregnant
- 2 percent of women who are from 28 to 33 years old may get pregnant
- 1 percent of women who are 34 and over may get pregnant
How Does Pregnancy Happen After Pregnancy?
When you speak with your doctor or nurse, if you ask, “Can I get pregnant if my tubes are tied?” they may explain all the ways this can happen. While having your tubes tied has a very high rate of effectiveness, it is still a form of birth control and pregnancy is slightly possible if some things occur. It has the lowest risk of failure, and the causes include:
1. Loss of Clips
There are a type of clips used to close the tubes known as, Hulka clips. They have a failure rate of 36.5 pregnancies per 1,000 surgeries. The clips do have a risk of falling off. There are also bands and rings that can be used and they have a lower rate of failure at, 17.1 pregnancies per 1,000 surgeries.
2. Tube Recanalization
This occurs when the ends of the fallopian tubes regrow together and an egg is able to make it through the tube again. When tubal ligation is done, the middle part of the tube is cut out. If too much of the tube is left, the ends can reach together again and repair themselves. The rate of getting pregnant from this cause is about 7.5 pregnancies per 1,000 surgeries.
3. Unidentified Fallopian Tubes
If you have a health condition like; endometriosis or pelvic scarring, you run a higher risk of the surgeon not being able to find your actual tube. A different body structure may be mistaken for the fallopian tube, leaving the actual tube still open. It is possible that the tube will be found and the surgeon may be unable to completely close off the tube due to scarring.
It is possible to develop an opening somewhere in your tube that can allow the egg to be released from the side of the tube. This carries the highest risk of ectopic pregnancy after tubal ligation, because the fertilized egg will not be able to leave the tube and implant into the uterus.
Some of these cases are not preventable, and you will be made aware of the risks when you sign your consent for surgery
Risk of Ectopic Pregnancy
When you are getting ready for surgery, you may ask your doctor, “Can I get pregnant if my tubes are tied?” Your doctor may tell you the statistics of this happening and explain to you the risk of ectopic pregnancy if you do get pregnant.
An ectopic pregnancy is a very serious health condition and needs immediate medical attention. If an egg is fertilized in the tube it will continue to grow and the tube can rupture. Because the ends of the tube are closed off, there is little to no chance of implantation in the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancies are very rare, but they can happen if you get pregnant after having your tubes tied. They are most common in women who had their tubes tied before the age of 30. The risk also increases if you have scarring in your pelvic area or abdomen.
The risk of ectopic pregnancy after having your tubes tied is about 15 to 20 percent if pregnancy does occur. Most of the ectopic pregnancies happen within the first year after you have your tubes tied. If you continue with another birth control method during this time, the risk of a pregnancy implanting in the fallopian tube drops to about 12.5 percent.
When to See a Doctor
If your period is late or missed after having your tubes tied, you should call your doctor right away. Do not wait to get a positive result on a store bought pregnancy test before you call the doctor. Delaying medical care can put you at risk of serious health effects like bleeding internally, infection, and tubal rupture. Tubal rupture can be fatal. An ectopic pregnancy will not go to full-term in the fallopian tube, so you need to get checked right away to make sure the pregnancy is progressing normally.
The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Feeling dizzy
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Pain in your shoulder
- Severe pelvic pain
- Pregnancy symptoms (nausea, vomiting, missed period, fatigue)