University Health Service

What is sterilization?

Sterilization is a safe, highly effective, and permanent form of birth control. Tubal sterilization and vasectomy are the two most common sterilization procedures.

Tubal sterilization

The fallopian tubes are attached to the uterus and are next to the ovaries. In order for pregnancy to occur, the ovaries must release an egg and the egg must be fertilized by the sperm. The fallopian tubes are the site where the egg gets fertilized. The fertilized egg then travels to the uterus, where it attaches to the wall of the uterus.

During a sterilization procedure, a health care provider closes or blocks the fallopian tubes, thus preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. Sterilization may be performed through a procedure called laparoscopy (through the belly) or through a procedure called hysteroscopy (through the vagina). Both of these procedures are typically done as an outpatient at a surgical facility or clinic.

Sterilization is done by tubal ligation, which means tying, cutting or sealing the tubes.


During a vasectomy, a health care provider surgically cuts or blocks the tubes that carry sperm from the testes. A health care provider numbs the area and makes a small cut into the scrotum. The tubes are then tied and cut or sealed to block sperm from passing into the semen. The small cut heals quickly and no stitches are needed.

How effective is it?

  • Fewer than 1 out of 100 users who have tubal sterilization will become pregnant each year.
  • Fewer than 1 out of 100 users who have a vasectomy will cause a pregnancy each year.

What are the benefits?

  • It is safe, permanent and very effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • You do not have to think about birth control every day or every time you have sex.

What are the downsides?

  • Possible regret after sterilization — between 3 and 25 out of 100 people have feelings of regret following sterilization.
  • Sterilization does not provide protection from sexually transmitted infections (STI). External condoms or internal condoms can be used to prevent STI.
  • Complications may occur. For tubal sterilization, the most common complications include infection, bleeding, bowel or bladder injury, and problems related to anesthesia. For vasectomy, side effects may include short-term tenderness, bruising and rarely problems related to anesthesia.
  • Reversing the procedure involves major surgery, is not always successful, and is rarely covered by insurance plans.

Where can I get sterilized?

  • UHS does not offer sterilization.
  • Health care professionals perform sterilization in an outpatient clinic or hospital.

Personal experiences

I had tubal ligation 10 years ago.  For a few days after the procedure, I was tired and felt dizzy. My sister also had identical problems when she had the procedure.  I don't have any regrets about my choice.

My wife and I decided we didn't want children. For me to have a vasectomy would prevent my wife from having to stay on the birth control pill. This decision has allowed us to plan our future and have sex without any worries. In my case, I have noticed absolutely no change in my sex life.

Where can I get more information?

For more information, talk to your health care provider. You can also get reliable information from Planned Parenthood about Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy.