Healthy lives for young people
Contraception

Sterilisation

Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception that works by stopping the eggs and sperm meeting. It is suitable for both men and women who are sure they never want children or who do not want more children.

Quick guide

How it works

Sterilisation is a permanent form of contraception which involves an operation to stop the sperm and egg meeting. Read more

Pros and cons

Sterilisation is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy
You won’t need to use contraception to prevent pregnancy again
Sterilisation cannot be easily reversed
Sterilisation does not protect you against STIs

Read more

Where to get it

You can get information and advice on sterilisation from your GP surgery or contraception and sexual health clinics. Find your nearest one using our find a service tool. Read more

How sterilisation works

Sterilisation is a permanent form of contraception which involves an operation to stop the sperm and egg meeting.

  • Female sterilisation (also called tubal occlusion) is done by cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes which carry an egg from the ovary to the uterus (womb). With female sterilisation women will still get periods – you will still release an egg but this will be absorbed naturally.
  • Male sterilisation (also called a vasectomy) this is done by cutting and sealing or tying the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis.

It takes between four weeks and at least three months for sterilisation to be effective, depending on the method used.

While there is no official age limit for sterilisation, doctors will want to be sure that a person is 100% sure about it, which can mean if a young person requests sterilisation some doctors may not want to refer them, or may suggest that they get counselling beforehand to make sure they have thought through everything first.

Pros & cons

Pros

  • Sterilisation is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy
  • Once sterilisation has been confirmed as working you won’t need to use contraception to prevent pregnancy again

Cons

  • Although it isn’t common, the tubes can rejoin meaning that you will be fertile again (1 in 2000 men and 1 in 200 women)
  • Sterilisation cannot be easily reversed – reversals are rarely funded on the NHS
  • Sterilisation does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • You will still have periods after female sterilisation
  • You’ll need to continue using contraception until the sterilisation has been confirmed as working
  • LARC methods of contraception can be as effective as sterilisation

Where you can get sterilised

You can get information and advice on sterilisation from your GP surgery or contraception and sexual health clinics. Find your nearest one using our find a service tool.

If this is something you are considering, you may want to find out about types of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) which are very effective methods and are reversible. They are the contraceptive implant, contraceptive injection, intrauterine device (IUD) and the intrauterine system (IUS).

You may have to receive additional counselling to make sure that you are 100% certain you want to be sterilised.

In some areas, NHS waiting lists for sterilisation can be quite long. You can pay to have a sterilisation done privately although this is expensive.

Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.

How does sterilisation affect periods

The ovaries, uterus and cervix are left in place and so your hormones are not affected by the sterilisation. You will still ovulate and an egg is released but it is absorbed naturally by your body. Your periods will continue to be as regular as they were before. Sometimes some women find their periods become heavier. This is normally because they have stopped using hormonal contraception which may have made their periods lighter.

Can sterilisation be reversed?

Sterilisation is meant to be permanent.

Sterilisation cannot easily be reversed and reversal operations are not always successful. Reversals are rarely funded on the NHS and they can be difficult (and expensive) to get privately.

Hysteroscopic sterilisation (also known as Essure) which is a type of female sterilisation, cannot be reversed.

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