your questions answered
About Marie Stopes International
Marie Stopes International is a specialist reproductive healthcare
organisation and a registered charity working in both the UK
Our nine main UK centres help over 100,000 women and men
each year with sterilisation, contraception and health screening…
but the good work does not stop here.
Any financial surplus generated in the UK helps us provide
reproductive healthcare services to women and their families
in some of the poorest communities in the world.
The organisation campaigns for better awareness of sexual health
issues and open access to services for everyone. Our aim is to
provide a high quality service, tailored to individual need.
Whichever service you require we offer convenient appointments
and experienced teams who are supportive and professional.
We provide sterilisation services at our Marie Stopes International
Essex Centre in Buckhurst Hill and can usually offer you an
In this booklet we have tried to answer some of the questions you
may have about female sterilisation.
For information & appointments:
Telephone 0845 300 0212 – 24 hours
What is female sterilisation?
Female sterilisation is the most popular form of
contraception in the world. It is a safe, effective
method of birth control for women who have
completed their families or for those who do not want
to have children.
It is estimated that more than 150 million women
throughout the world are protected by sterilisation.
Is female sterilisation the right choice
For many women sterilisation is an excellent option. Although it is essential
that you give serious thought to the decision to be sterilised, we will
consider any woman, regardless or whether she is married or single, or has
children or not.
If you are not sure whether you might want children in the future, you really
should not choose sterilisation. Alternatives such as the pill, hormone
injections, implants and IUD’s (coils) may be more suitable.
Does my partner have to agree?
Your partner’s consent is not legally required but we feel that it is preferable
to discuss your decision with your permanent partner if you have one. Your
partner can attend for consultation with you if you wish but again this is not
How effective is sterilisation?
Although it is highly effective, sterilisation does fail occasionally. A pregnancy
can occur at any time, sometimes years later, without warning.
Overall, the failure rate is considered to be less than 1% but there are
exceptions. Women sterilised when they are under 28 years of age are
shown to experience a higher failure rate, no matter what method is
employed to perform their sterilisation. There could be a number of reasons
for this, most notably that they tend to be more fertile and that the point
where the tube is sealed is more likely to heal, creating a new tube through
which an ovum (egg) can pass, leading to failure of the procedure.
These failure rates have been assessed in a long term study over ten years
from date of sterilisation.
It is also necessary to be aware of the danger of ectopic
(tubal) pregnancy after sterilisation. Although this can
occur in any pregnancy the relative risk is slightly higher
Am I suitable for sterilisation?
Anyone can have a sterilisation but there are some medical conditions
which may make the procedure more difficult. If you have had any of the
conditions listed below, please let us know. We may advise that you have a
consultation with a gynaecologist before booking the procedure:
• An ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
• A prolapse of the womb
• Ovarian cysts
• Infection of the fallopian tubes or pelvic area
• Any surgery to the lower abdomen or pelvic area including delivery by
• A waist measurement of over 32 inches may also make the procedure
We also need to be aware if you have or have had any of the following
conditions before you make your booking:
• Heart disease
• Sickle Cell Anaemia
• High blood pressure
• Hepatitis (jaundice)
• Menstrual problems
• Current use of anti-coagulants
• Drug allergies
• Problems associated with general anaesthetic
If there is any possibility that you might be pregnant,
please arrange to have a pregnancy test before booking
If you would like to ask one of our nurse advisors any
questions about sterilisation please call us on
0845 122 1441.
How is the procedure performed?
The aim of the procedure is to prevent an egg released by the ovaries from
coming into contact with sperm and fertilisation occurring. To do this a clip
is placed on each fallopian tube, effectively sealing them.
The procedure is performed using an instrument called a laparoscope,
which is inserted through a very small incision made under the navel. The
laparoscope allows the operating doctor to view the fallopian tubes. A
harmless gas is passed into the pelvic area, through the same incision, to
increase the doctor’s view. A second small incision, just above the pubic
hairline, is made for an instrument called a clip applicator to be inserted and
the clips are placed on to the tubes.
The whole procedure lasts for 15 – 20 minutes and can be performed under
sedation or general anaesthetic.
Fallopian tubes are clipped to stop the egg
travelling from the ovary to the uterus
Do I have to have an anaesthetic?
We encourage the use of local anaesthetic with sedation – commonly
known as conscious sedation, because it is safer for you than general
anaesthetic. Local anaesthetic with sedation also has the advantage of a
shorter recovery period with less nausea and vomiting than general
Local anaesthetic is injected where the incision is made and a sedative, to
make you sleepy and feel detached is given as an injection in your hand or
arm. Some women do experience some discomfort during the procedure,
but usually only for a short period.
General anaesthetic is an alternative option where an injection is given in
your hand or arm and you are completely asleep.
You will have an opportunity to discuss these options in
full at your consultation.
What happens to my body after
Your body continues to produce eggs, but they are reabsorbed rather than
passed down the tubes into your womb. Most women continue to have
normal periods although about one in ten women find that their periods
become heavier after sterilisation.
Sterilisation does not affect hormone production, so
there is no effect of early menopause.
You can return to having sex as soon as you feel well enough. But we do
recommend that you use another form of contraception until after your next
period. This is in case an egg has passed the point where the tube has
been blocked and could still be fertilised.
Possible risks of sterilisation
Sterilisation is a very safe procedure. There are however a small number of
possible complications which you need to be aware of although these are
• There is a risk of damage to other organs during the procedure,
particularly the womb and bowel, but this is rare. The procedure will be
performed by a very experienced gynaecologist and the centre has robust
procedures in place to deal with any emergency that may arise.
• Although highly effective, sterilisation does fail occasionally. A pregnancy
can occur at any time, sometimes years later, and without warning.
The failure rate is considered to be less than 1%. In the unlikely event that
you do become pregnant, a termination of pregnancy within the terms of
the 1967 Abortion Act can be performed for those women who opt for this
and the sterilisation can be repeated, all free of charge.
• There is always a risk of ectopic pregnancy, but the relative risk increases
very slightly following sterilisation. The signs are very similar to those of a
normal pregnancy, such as a missed period or sickness, but
accompanied by pain similar to that associated with appendicitis. It is
therefore vitally important to see a doctor immediately if you suspect you
may be pregnant.
The incidence of infection is, fortunately, very rare. However it is always a
possibility after any surgery, so should you suspect that your wound is
infected please contact any of our clinics straight away. If you live too far
away to come and see us for treatment, see your GP. An infection is easily
treatable, but does require prompt medical attention.
All aftercare is completely free of charge so please call us if you have any
worries at all.
Are there any alternatives to sterilisation
There are temporary methods of contraception such as the pill, IUD (coil),
cap, injection, implants and condoms.
Also, there is sterilisation for men – vasectomy. This is a simpler procedure
which takes only a few minutes to perform. We can provide information
about vasectomy at Marie Stopes centres if you are interested in this option.
What will happen when I come to the
Generally, your consultation and procedure will take place on the same day,
although if you would like to discuss your options before making your
decision a separate visit can be arranged.
If you have not had your consultation in advance, you will see one of our
nurse advisors when you arrive. You can spend as much time as you like
with the nurse and ask any questions you may have. You will then be shown
to your recliner and prepared for treatment.
After the procedure has been completed, you will spend a short time in the
recovery room before returning to your recliner where you will be offered a
light snack. You should feel well enough to leave the centre after two to
It is essential that you do not drive yourself and that you have someone to
How much time will I need to take off
work or need help at home?
If you work, we recommend that you take about a week off. If you have
young children, you will need help for about a week as lifting them is not a
good idea. We advise that you avoid any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting
for about two weeks.
Do I have to tell my GP that I am
planning to be sterilised?
Not unless you wish to. Many women are referred to us by their GPs and
you will be given a letter for your GP before your leave us.
When can I have an appointment?
We are open most weekdays. Appointments will be made to suit you so you
can plan in advance or arrange a quick appointment once you have made
How do I make an appointment?
Please call us on 0845 300 0212 and we will arrange an appointment for
you at your convenience.
How much does it cost?
You will be asked to pay your fee when you arrive; full details of the cost are
on the enclosed booking form. You can pay be cash, Visa, MasterCard,
Switch, Delta, Solo, or Electron. Cheques are not accepted. If your
treatment is being funded by the NHS, payment does not apply.
Details can be obtained on request from our sterilisation
advisors on 0845 300 0212.
We hope that this booklet has helped to answer your
questions. However, if there is anything you are unsure
about, or anything that is worrying you, please contact us.
To book an appointment call our information service on
0845 300 0212 (24 hours)
or book online at www.mariestopes.org.uk
Marie Stopes International
1 Conway St
London W1T 6LP
Information and appointments 24 hours
+44 (0)845 300 8090
+44 (0)20 7636 6200
+44 (0) 20 7034 2369
Registered charity no.