When Getting Your ‘Tubes Tied’ Isn’t as Tidy as it Sounds
“Are you and your husband thinking about having more?” my well-meaning midwife recently asked me at my 6-week postpartum check-up.
“Yes, definitely, in a little while,” was my immediate answer. Despite now having the so-called “perfect” American family of one little boy and one (newborn) little girl, my husband and I do hope to have more children down the line.
“Okay, I know you use Natural Family Planning,” my midwife continued, “and that will work okay since you want more kids. But if you had just had, say, your fifth baby, we might want to be discussing something a bit more permanent.”
Given that my midwife and I have a good rapport, and that she has always been kind and respectful of my wishes throughout my recent pregnancy and delivery, I simply let this last comment slide.
But maybe I shouldn’t have.
A recent article from TODAY examined the darker side of tubal ligations—no doubt the “more permanent solution” my midwife was hinting at—which many women turn to when they and their partners decide they are done having kids.
For many women, tubal ligations seem like the natural choice when they’re done growing their family—after all, why would you want to bother with the Pill or an IUD if you know you’re done? But some women who’ve had the procedure are now experiencing a whole range of unsavory side effects that they claim they were never warned about beforehand.
The women interviewed by TODAY detailed concerning symptoms like painful, heavy periods, chills, migraines, depression, and nausea. Yet many struggle to find help from their doctors, because the syndrome is not well understood and no studies have been done to examine these symptoms. One doctor interviewed by TODAY notes that some of these symptoms could be due to underlying issues that were once masked by birth control.
Questions about post-tubal ligation syndrome aside, the long-term complication most commonly experienced after a woman has her tubes tied is regret. Rates of regret as high as 26% have been reported by women who have had the procedure. (And, interestingly, one study showed comparable rates of regret for women who regret their partner’s vasectomies with rates of regret for women who’ve had their own sterilization procedures.) Reversals may sometimes be possible, but not in all cases.
Given all of this information about tubal ligations, I wish more people—my midwife included —understood the truth about Natural Family Planning (NFP) and Fertility Awareness-Based Methods. (FABM). I wish they know how effective these methods are even after a couple has decided they are going to stop having kids—and that they don’t carry the potential for dangerous symptoms or permanent regret.
In the 5+ years since my husband and I have been using NFP to plan our family, we have used it to fit whatever our particular family planning needs. From using it to postpone pregnancy as newlyweds and postpartum, to using it (in conjunction with NaProTechnology) to diagnose and treat infertility and conceive our two children, Natural Family Planning has worked very well for us. I see little reason why that should change when my husband and I discern that our family is complete. As physician assistant Allison Jung recently shared with Natural Womanhood, Natural Family Planning methods can be as effective options as more permanent birth control methods at preventing pregnancy—and even better, if we are considering the holistic picture of a women’s health goals.