Can Your Tubes Come Untied? Doctors Answer Your Questions


Sterilization is an elective procedure that many women and men opt for. They want the freedom that comes with not having to worry about pregnancy every month, and tubal ligation gives them that. Men often seek sterilization, too. Some people may be aware from a young age that they never plan to have children, either for medical or personal reasons. Some have had their babies and desire no more. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology notes 49 percent of pregnancies that occurred in 2001 were unintentional. Wanting to put the concern of an unplanned pregnancy behind them, 10.3 million women in America were relying on sterilization as their primary form of birth control as of 2002. Surely that number has only advanced since then.

All Tied Up

Woman with her tubes tied

When a woman gets her tubes tied, the doctor isn’t just reaching inside of her and tying her tubes in a knot. There isn’t actually any Boy Scout business going on at all. There are a variety of methods used to perform female sterilization today. The traditional terminology stemmed from the tubal ligation procedure in which the doctor performing it tied a string or suture around a hook formed in the fallopian tube to prevent eggs from passing through them. In some circumstances, doctors will even go as far as to burn the ends of those clipped pieces with a cauterizing tool. When someone talks about getting a tubal ligation or female sterilization, they are using a medical term for tubes tied.


Conception of tubal reversal

While some women and men opt for elective reversals of sterilization procedures down the road as a result of changing their mind about more children, some are confident in their decision and end up with a baby on the way anyway. How does this happen one might wonder? There is a reason that female sterilization isn’t 100 percent effective. In fact, the younger a woman is when she gets the procedure done, the more of a chance she has to get pregnant. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports efficacy rates being 95 percent for women under the age of 28 compared to 99 percent for women older than 33 years of age.

Many people think it’s normal for birth control not to be fully effective since the slightest factors, such as the body not absorbing a birth control pill correctly, could adjust its efficacy. This isn’t how it works with sterilization, though. Ideally, if there is no pathway for an egg to pass through then there shouldn’t be any chance of conception, but there is. The reason that a tubal ligation isn’t 100 percent effective isn’t because there is a chance that pregnancy could still occur even with the tubal in place.

That five percent chance that women under 28 years old have of pregnancy stems from the five percent chance that a tubal ligation will fail and the tubes will repair themselves. The younger the female body is, the more likely it is able to repair itself. Thus, that’s why younger women have a greater chance of pregnancy. In some cases, the body can actually grow tubes to lengthen and reapply themselves to one another in attempt to fuse back together and open that pathway to having a baby.

[Read more about Reversal]

Willful Reversal

This may come as surprising news to some and news that gives hope to others. Some women desire to have their tubal ligation reversed but cannot afford the cost of having it done surgically. Thus, many of them wonder: can you untie your tubes yourself? In short, no. There is no way to make this happen, just as there is no way to prevent it from happening. Some women will find their bodies just respond to the surgery in a way that it detects harm has been done to the body. As with any natural response to an injury, the body attempts to heal the damage that was done.


Picture showing how vasectomy surgery works

Vasectomy is sterilization for men. It is similar to a tubal ligation in that there are ducts in the male body that carry sperm to the ejaculate. These tubes are called the vas deferens. Cutting a portion out of them serves the same purpose for men as it does for women; it makes it less likely that the two pieces of tubing are floating around waiting to find one another and reconnect. The vasectomy procedure does not require being put to sleep during it, but a small number of men do opt for this. Some men may also need to take an anti-anxiety medication prior to the procedure. This is commonplace and nothing to be ashamed of.

Vasectomy is actually considered to be a bit more effective than tubal ligation. American Pregnancy reports there is only a 1 percent chance of pregnancy after a vasectomy has been confirmed to have been successful. What this means is that after a period of roughly three months following the procedure, the semen has been tested to confirm there is no presence of sperm. If there isn’t any sperm in the semen then the procedure has been successful.

One might wonder can a vasectomy reverse itself? Yes, it can. If the tubes become untied that the doctor made while performing the vasectomy, the two halves of the tube which was snipped could find one another and reunite. The body is an amazing thing and it is always aiming to keep the human being intact and reproducing. While these goals may not be practical or align with a man’s personal needs in his life, that’s simply how it is.

Couples who are seeking permanent sterilization methods may want to consider vasectomy before tubal ligation simply because it is easier, involves less recovery and is known to be more effective. If a tubal ligation is necessary, women should still pay attention to their monthly cycle and make note of it if they’re late. Even when a vasectomy or tubal ligation is in place, being late for a period warrants testing. The chance of pregnancy is small, but it’s not impossible.

[Watch this video about Vasectomy]


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