Sterilisation involves blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes, which link the ovaries to the womb (uterus). Sterilisation is meant to be permanent - though there are reversal operations, they are not always successful.
How common is it?
In recent years, many more couples in their 30s and 40s are opting for efficient and long lasting contraceptives instead of sterilisation, as more couples are choosing to have families later in life.
You can be sterilised at any age. However, if you are under 30, particularly if you do not have children, you will be offered the opportunity to discuss your choices before you commit to having the procedure.
You should only be sterilised if you are certain that you do not want to have any, or any more, children. If you have any doubts, consider another method of contraception until you are completely sure.
Clinicians do have the right to refuse to refer you for the procedure if they do not believe that it is in your best interests. In some areas, waiting lists for sterilisation on the NHS can be quite long. You can pay to have the operation done privately.
What is involved?
Female sterilisation works by preventing eggs from travelling down the fallopian tubes. This means a woman's eggs cannot meet sperm, and fertilisation cannot happen.
Sterilisation is a fairly minor operation, with many women returning home the same day.
You may feel unwell for a couple of days and need to take a bit of time off work.
There are two types of operation, one which blocks the fallopian tubes, using clamps or rings, and the other using an implant to create scar tissue which eventually blocks the tubes. Read more about the options in our Questions section.
You may experience slight vaginal bleeding and/or cramps afterwards. Your periods will continue to be as regular as they were before sterilisation. Occasionally, some women find that their periods become heavier. This is usually because they have stopped using hormonal contraception, which may have lightened their periods previously.