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Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control for men or women. Because sterilization is permanent, you will want to be absolutely sure you don't ever want to have a child, or any more children, before you take this step. Sterilization is done as an out-patient procedure.

For men, the tubes that allow sperm to pass out of the penis are closed off so that sperm may not come into contact with an egg. Male sterilization or vasectomy, may be performed without use of a needle or a scalpel.

For women, the tubes that carry the egg to the uterus are blocked by a surgical procedure or a microinsert. The microinsert looks like a very tiny metal spring and is placed inside the woman’s fallopian tubes.

Following sterilization, sperm and eggs are still created but fertilization cannot occur because the pathways that usually allow the sperm and egg to come together are blocked. Back up contraception may be necessary for a period of time after either procedure.

Advantages of sterilization include:

  • Permanent birth control that doesn't require any hormones or daily maintenance.
  • Normal functions of reproductive organs aren't changed by sterilization; a man still has erections and normal ejaculations (but without sperm carried in the fluid); a woman still has her menstrual cycle as always.
  • Over a period of years, sterilization is very cost-effective.
  • Positive psychological effects may include: Relief from worry about pregnancy; freedom to enjoy sexual relations more spontaneously.

Possible disadvantages and side effects may include:

  • Expense of the surgery if you do not have insurance or assistance to help pay for it.
  • If you change your mind, the so-called "reversal" procedures are usually not covered by insurance and may not be successful or even possible.
  • Negative psychological effects may include the emotional distress of regret (especially when the decision has been made too quickly, when there are mixed feelings about the procedure that weren't addressed beforehand, or when circumstances change, as in divorce and remarriage).

Potential risks may include:

  • Any procedure poses a small risk of problems with anesthetics, allergic reaction to medications, bleeding or infection.

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