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How Likely is Pregnancy After a Tubal Ligation?

Pregnancy after tubal ligation is rare, with success rates hovering around 1%. This procedure, designed to be a permanent form of birth control, blocks or cuts the fallopian tubes to prevent conception. However, no method is foolproof, and factors like age and technique used can influence its effectiveness. Wondering about the exceptions? Discover the stories behind the statistics in our full article.
Anna T.
Anna T.

Pregnancy after a tubal ligation is very rare. Only about 1.5% of women who have had tubal ligations get pregnant, and after 10 years, the likelihood of pregnancy increases up to roughly 2%. There are some women who opt to have their tubal ligations reversed because they have changed their minds about wanting children. Even after the procedure is reversed, the chances of getting pregnant are still typically less than they were before the procedure was performed because it normally damages the fallopian tubes to some degree.

Even though it is rare, pregnancy can occur after a tubal ligation because fallopian tubes occasionally grow back together. When this happens, it is possible for the egg to become fertilized and travel down through the reattached fallopian tubes into the uterus, where a baby can develop. Pregnancy after a tubal ligation has a higher risk of being ectopic because of the damaged fallopian tubes. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the egg does not reach the uterus and instead attaches itself to the walls of the fallopian tubes. Pregnancies like these are incredibly dangerous and occasionally life-threatening for women.

A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the fallopian tubes.
A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the fallopian tubes.

Roughly 10 years after the tubal ligation was performed, a woman's chances of conceiving increase slightly. This is because, by this time, the fallopian tubes will have had a chance to grow back together after being separated. This almost never happens, and when it does, it typically means that the procedure was not performed properly to begin with. The fact that human error is always possible means that tubal ligation is not necessarily a guaranteed method of birth control for any woman, although pregnancy is rare enough that most women are content to take their chances.

Women who have had a tubal ligation reversed are at a greater risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
Women who have had a tubal ligation reversed are at a greater risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

Medical professionals can reverse tubal ligations for women who change their minds about having children. The reversal can be expensive, however, and there is no guarantee that conception will be possible afterward. Pregnancy is much more likely if the procedure is reversed, but women who have had the reversal may still be at higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy and might experience some difficulty conceiving. Roughly 1 in 100 women who have had the procedure reversed may have ectopic pregnancies, and the chances of conception tend to be greater for women under the age of 40.

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Discussion Comments

EdRick

@ElizaBennett - My understanding is that vasectomy is a less invasive procedure with a shorter recovery time than tubal ligation. It makes sense if you think about where the surgeon is working - even minor abdominal surgery is no picnic.

I looked it up, and the failure rate is about the same for both. But vasectomy is done in a doctor's office with local anesthesia and takes about ten minutes. Tubal ligation is also a short surgery, but it requires spinal or general anesthesia and there is a greater risk of complications.

I've learned all about it because my wife and I are grappling with the same decision - except she's voting for a third child and I am *not.* I'm trying to sweeten the deal by saying that I will get a vasectomy now, but if she insists on a third child, the offer is withdrawn. (I'm only half-serious, of course.)

ElizaBennett

Is getting pregnant after tubal ligation less common than pregnancy after vasectomy? My husband and I have some years to make this decision - we think we'd like to have a third child first - but we're thinking of having one of us "fixed" once our family is complete.

I read once about a couple that conceived after the mom's tubal ligation - and then *again* after the dad's vasectomy! So I know it's possible either way, but I'm wondering which procedure is safer and more effective in the long term. By the time the ten years were up, I would probably be close to being past childbearing anyway.

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    • A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the fallopian tubes.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the female reproductive system, including the fallopian tubes.
    • Women who have had a tubal ligation reversed are at a greater risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
      By: 9nong
      Women who have had a tubal ligation reversed are at a greater risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
    • Obstetrician-gynecologists can perform tubal ligations to prevent pregnancy.
      By: endostock
      Obstetrician-gynecologists can perform tubal ligations to prevent pregnancy.
    • Some women may change their minds about conceiving after having a tubal ligation.
      By: Monkey Business
      Some women may change their minds about conceiving after having a tubal ligation.
    • Heavy periods may occur after having a tubal ligation.
      By: Dragos Iliescu
      Heavy periods may occur after having a tubal ligation.
    • Only 1.5 percent of women will get pregnant following a tubal ligation.
      By: Alena Ozerova
      Only 1.5 percent of women will get pregnant following a tubal ligation.
    • A tubal ligation may be performed during a cesarean section.
      By: Jorge Abdala
      A tubal ligation may be performed during a cesarean section.
    • It is possible to have a tubal ligation reversal if a woman decides she wants to get pregnant.
      By: CandyBox Images
      It is possible to have a tubal ligation reversal if a woman decides she wants to get pregnant.