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Postpartum sterilization

Kari P Braaten, MD, MPH
Caryn Dutton, MD, MS
Section Editor
Jody Steinauer, MD, MAS
Deputy Editor
Sandy J Falk, MD, FACOG


Female sterilization (also referred to as tubal ligation) includes several different procedures and techniques that provide permanent contraception for women. The most common techniques prevent pregnancy by disrupting the patency of the fallopian tubes. This prevents conception by blocking transport of sperm from the lower genital tract to an ovulated oocyte.

Female sterilization may be performed immediately after childbirth (postpartum sterilization) or at a time unrelated to a pregnancy (interval sterilization). Among women in the United States, it is estimated that over 50 percent of sterilizations performed each year are in the postpartum period [1]. Most postpartum sterilization procedures are performed via laparotomy, either through the cesarean laparotomy at the time of cesarean delivery or via minilaparotomy following vaginal delivery. Most interval sterilization procedures are performed via laparoscopy.

This topic review will focus on postpartum sterilization. An overview of general principles of female sterilization as well as laparoscopic and hysteroscopic sterilization are discussed elsewhere. (See "Overview of female sterilization" and "Laparoscopic female sterilization" and "Hysteroscopic sterilization".)


The only indication for sterilization is the patient's desire for permanent contraception. Ultimately, the choice is made by the patient, but the decision requires thorough counseling about permanent sterility and the risk of regret.

There are no medical conditions that are strictly incompatible with postpartum sterilization via minilaparotomy; however, there may be factors that make women more suitable for a particular route of sterilization or other contraceptive options. (See "Overview of female sterilization", section on 'Choosing a sterilization approach'.)


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Literature review current through: Mar 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 04, 2015.
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