How Surgical Methods of Birth Control Actually Work

Some of them are actually reversible.

At some point in life, you reach a time when they know you don’t want to have more (or any) children in the future. And you want to have a satisfying sex life without worrying about failing birth control. You might not want to put your faith in the natural family planning method and remembering to refill birth control pill prescriptions or buy condoms can become a nuisance.

Couples who fit this description may want to consider a permanent form of contraception: surgical methods. These methods of birth control are 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. We’ve all heard of vasectomies and “getting your tubes tied,” but here’s how these surgical birth control methods actually work.

Vasectomies are a surgical method of birth control for men.  A surgeon ties off or severs the vas deferens (the ducts that transport sperm) in the scrotum to prevent sperm from being ejaculated during sex. It takes several months for the vasectomy to have its full effect. Although a vasectomy is considered a permanent form of birth control, it can be reversed with a second surgery.

Surgical methods of birth control for women can be done two ways. Tubal ligation, or “getting your tubes tied,” is where a surgeon seals the fallopian tubes with a plastic clip or ring. This not only traps the egg in the ovary, but it also blocks sperm from entering the fallopian tubes to reach the egg. Reversing tubal ligation is an option, but some women might need in vitro fertilization (IVF) to become pregnant.  

The other surgical method of birth control for women is known as the Essure system and is irreversible. For the Essure system, a doctor inserts a non-hormonal metal coil into the fallopian tubes. These coils cause scar tissue to develop in the tubes over the course of about three months, which blocks the passage of eggs and sperm. This method is not reversible.

Some of these surgical methods for birth control might be reversible, but not without a second procedure, which isn’t the most pleasant experience (for you or your wallet). Additionally, surgical birth control methods do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (only condoms and abstinence can do this), so they are safest for those in long-term, monogamous relationships. As with all birth control methods, this choice should be considered carefully with the help of your doctor and partner.

Isabel Blumberg, MD

This video features Isabel Blumberg, MD. Dr. Blumberg is a clinical instructor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science.

Duration: 2:39. Last Updated On: June 7, 2018, 2:17 p.m.
Reviewed by: Suzanne Friedman, MD, Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: June 30, 2017
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