Kristen Williams always knew she didn’t want to have children. Since 17, she’d experimented with different forms of birth control, including the pill and later, an IUD, but then decided she wanted something more permanent. “My mom had her tubes tied after she was done having children, and I’ve had other friends who have done the same, so I knew it was an option,” she says.
She was aware of sterilization but was concerned about broaching the topic with her gynecologist. “I had never asked about [the procedure] before, because I assumed my doctor would tell me no.” But after presenting her gyno with a “sterilization binder,” i.e. a collection of her research about the procedure, she had an appointment date set.
Last year, at age 23, Williams got sterilized—and documented the experience on TikTok. When the now 24-year-old started posting videos about her sterilization journey online, she was unprepared for the swath of positive comments. “I didn’t think anyone would see it,” Williams tells ELLE.com. “But when it blew up, everyone was so supportive. It was nice to see women supporting women doing whatever they want with their bodies.”
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, sterilization has become a popular topic among young people. And although official statistics have not yet been made available, the Washington Post reported that anecdotally OB/GYNs across the country have seen a spike in patients inquiring about the procedure.
But because sterilization is a new concept for so many, the process comes with a lot of questions. Will you still have a period afterward? How much does it cost? Just how effective is it? Below, here’s everything you need to know.
What is sterilization?
Sterilization—also referred to as tubal ligation (“getting your tubes tied”)—is a surgical procedure that prevents pregnancy. For the procedure, the fallopian tubes are blocked, cut, or a portion is removed. This keeps the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. And because sterilization is an outpatient procedure, you typically won’t need to be hospitalized overnight.
In Williams’ case, she had the procedure done laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive and doesn’t require a large incision. “[My doctor] made three really tiny incisions and was able to go in without fully cutting me open,” she says. “It made for a significantly faster recovery time, and it was a lot easier on my body.”
For her, the process was seamless. “The actual surgery was really quick,” says Williams. “I think it took maybe 30-45 minutes. My doctor told me that I couldn’t do any heavy lifting over 25 pounds for about two weeks and that most patients need about two to six weeks to recover. But I got my surgery done on a Wednesday, and by that weekend, I was pretty much completely back to normal. I just had to be a little careful, because I had some stitches. But it was super easy.”
How much does sterilization cost?
According to Planned Parenthood, tubal ligation can cost anywhere up to $6,000. But if you have insurance, most plans now cover sterilization under the Affordable Care Act since it’s a form of birth control. Williams says she only had to pay a $200 co-pay.
Is the procedure reversible?
Generally, no. While surgery can potentially be performed to reconnect the tubes, this may not be successful, and it’s usually not covered by insurance.
Will you still have your period?
Yes. Your ovaries and hormones remain untouched. You also will not go into early menopause for the same reason.
Just how effective is sterilization?
Sterilization is more than 99 percent effective.
Does sterilization protect you from STDs?
No, none of the sterilization methods prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Where should you go to get sterilized?
Your OB/GYN is preferred, and they’ll perform the procedure in their normal office, but if you don’t have access to one, a hospital or Planned Parenthood health center are solid alternatives.
Why might a doctor hesitate to perform the procedure?
According to Dr. Ghea Adeboyejo, an OB/GYN and chief of maternal-child medicine at HCA University Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, doctors may hesitate to sterilize people who are young. “I think other doctors may fear that the patient will have regrets later in life,” she says. “But it’s our job to help educate women so that they can make the best choices for their health.”
Williams says that one of her biggest fears was getting rejected by a doctor, but coming to her initial consult prepared with questions and information about the procedure made a huge difference. “Going in and knowing about the procedure and being able to tell them confidently about it makes a humongous difference,” she says. “And if you do find someone who tells you no, search for someone else, because there is someone who will allow you that bodily autonomy. It may be annoying to find them, but it has genuinely been the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Can you still get pregnant?
Yes, but fewer than one out of 100 women will get pregnant within a year of surgery.
And remember, there are other options:
“Long-acting and reversible contraceptives like IUDs and birth control implants are just as effective and often easier to obtain,” Dr. Ghea says. “They may be lower in cost and offer the benefit of being easy to remove if a patient changes their mind or eventually wants to get pregnant.”
Juliana Ukiomogbe is the Assistant Editor at ELLE. Her work has previously appeared in Interview, i-D, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more.