Reversing Sterilisation – A Woman’s Prerogative to Change Her Mind

We have all made decisions that seemed like the right solution for the situation at the time, only to find that, as time goes on, we begin to regret them. This can sometimes be the case with women who have opted to be sterilised. They feel that their family is complete, or have perhaps decided that they don’t want a family at all and so they take permanent action, and then, their circumstances change and perhaps meet a new partner and decide that they do in fact want to try for a baby.

Never Say Never

Whilst many decisions in life cannot be unmade, sterilisation is one area where there is a reasonable success rate in reversing the procedure. It’s becoming increasingly common with 2-10% of women choosing to have the operation to reverse their sterilisation, often referred to as tubal ligation reversal. Between 50-60% of these women experience positive results and go on to have successful pregnancies.

Rewriting the Past

Sterilisation operations involve cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from down the tubes where they can be fertilised by sperm. The reversal operation quite literally unblocks or reconnects the fallopian tubes, allowing the eggs to pass freely again. The most common procedure for performing a tubal ligation reversal is a laparoscopy procedure, a type of keyhole surgery that requires minimal recovery time and allows the patient to go home within a matter of hours. There are new methods of sterilisation through the camera and blocking the tubes from inside the cavity of the womb. There are very challenging to reverse. You must discuss with a specialist to understand fully before you can weigh up your options.

If you are interested in having treatment to reverse sterilisation, make an appointment to speak with your doctor to find out more about the chance of a successful reversal. Women who choose to have the procedure are often in their late thirties and early forties and, as issues with infertility can increase as women become older, many women choose to see a private consultant about the procedure, as reversals on the NHS are rare and have very long waiting lists.

Happy Ever After?

The success of the operation depends largely on the methods that were used to perform the sterilisation in the first place. For example, if the tubes were clipped, it is much easier to remove the clips and resection the tubes than if they were tied. Essentially, the success depends on how much usable tube length can be salvaged during the operation. From a surgeon's objective point of view, success would be to have evidence of a successful communication channel between two cut ends of the tube. This can be done by putting a radio-opaque dye through the neck of the womb and seeing the dye going through the tubes and into the pelvis. This procedure is either done under x-ray, called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test, or is done under a keyhole camera test called laparoscopic dye test.

Good Old Mother Nature

As with everything to do with reproduction, there is no escaping the fact that Mother Nature does tend to intervene. Unsurprisingly, age plays a large part in the success of the reversal, the quality and number of a woman’s eggs can deteriorate with age so even if the operation is a success, the odds could be stacked against someone who is in their early for example. Fertility does involve an element of luck though, and medical professionals worldwide have been astonished time and time again by success stories that went against all of the odds. By seeking the best private care and attention you will have the best chance of conceiving again, not least because you will have time on your side.

Further Resources

Follow the link to find out more about the sterilisation process.

For more information on contraception, visit our Contraception page.

By Mr Sachchidananda Maiti, MD, FROCG, a Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Honorary Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester Medical School.

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