Tubal ligation is when a woman has her "tubes tied" to prevent pregnancy. It is still possible to become pregnant after undergoing the procedure, but tubal ligation is usually highly effective.
The surgery involves cutting and tying off the fallopian tubes to prevent an egg from entering the uterus.
Undergoing tubal ligation increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Read on to learn more about symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, other complications, and the chances of becoming pregnant after the procedure.
Though rare, it is possible to become pregnant after tubal ligation.
Usually, this occurs if the fallopian tubes have grown back together over time. In some cases, pregnancy is possible because the surgeon performed the procedure incorrectly.
If a woman wishes, a surgeon can reverse tubal ligation by rejoining the fallopian tubes. However, only around 50–80 percent of women can become pregnant following reversal surgery.
Women who have undergone tubal ligation should still be aware of some symptoms of pregnancy, especially because they have an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Symptoms of pregnancy include:
- cravings for certain foods and aversions to others
- tenderness in the breasts
- missed menstruation
- unexplained fatigue
- frequent urination
If used correctly, at-home tests can help to determine whether a woman is pregnant. If a test shows a positive result, it is essential to see a doctor for confirmation.
At-home pregnancy tests are available in pharmacies and online.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
Women who become pregnant after undergoing tubal ligation have an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy can initially cause the same symptoms as a regular pregnancy. However, some additional symptoms may develop, including:
- light or heavy vaginal bleeding
- abdominal pain
- sharp pain in the pelvis
- a sensation of pressure on the pelvis
An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency because it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture, leading to internal bleeding.
Anyone who is pregnant should seek emergency medical attention if they experience the following symptoms:
- heavy vaginal bleeding
- severe pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- loss of consciousness
- pain in the left shoulder
- a feeling of lightheadedness
A doctor will usually prescribe medication to stop an ectopic pregnancy if they detect it early. The doctor will monitor the woman's hormone levels to ensure that they are dropping.
If medication is unable to stop the pregnancy, the doctor may recommend surgery.
The risks and complications of the procedure are usually minor. Some risks include:
- infection at the incision site
- separation of the wound
- incomplete healing, which can result in the tubes growing back together
More serious complications can include:
- allergic reaction to general anesthesia
- significant blood loss
- injury to an organ during surgery
Factors that increase the risk of complications include:
- being overweight
- having undergone previous abdominal surgery
- lung disease
- heart issues
Speak to a doctor about the potential complications before undergoing the procedure.
Following tubal ligation, it is essential to look for signs of infection at the incision site. If there is any swelling, redness, or discharge, see a doctor.
Anyone who suspects that they are pregnant should take an at-home test. If the test is positive, a doctor can use further tests to confirm the pregnancy.
It is also crucial to know the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening if a person does not receive prompt medical attention.
Tubal ligation is one of the most effective forms of birth control. However, it is not a guarantee.
If pregnancy does occur after the procedure, it is essential to be aware of the risks and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy.
Otherwise, the medical community generally considers tubal ligation to be a safe and effective method of preventing unwanted pregnancy.