- Women's Health
Tied Up and Free
Why I Chose Tubal Ligation
I had my first and only child at almost 40. Don’t get me wrong – my daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and her father and I liken her to the Messiah on most days, but she was what one would politely call a “pleasant surprise.”
We are and always will be perfectly content having one perfect child. We simply don’t have the resources to have more children; I’m too old and we’re too poor. However, it was very likely that I still had plenty of childbearing years left. The women in my family are famous for cranking out kids well into their 40s, and the thought of waking up knocked up at 43 or even older stood my hair on end. We needed to consider our options.
I don’t want to get into a political, philosophical, moral, or religious argument here, but I believe smart women use birth control and use it militantly. Few things in this life are more world-rocking than having a child, and I do not nor ever have taken reproduction casually. Using contraception correctly and consistently is an integral part of a responsible person’s sex life. However, contraception isn’t always reliable and certainly isn’t much fun. Frankly, after messing with it for over two decades, I was DONE. They always say sex during pregnancy is the best of your life, and I’m willing to bet the bliss goes well beyond the crazy hormones at work. You spend all those months not worrying about birth control. Not once. Talk about free love.
A few months after our daughter was born and, having been spoiled by not having to do the contraceptive shuffle, we decided to do something permanent. I set up an appointment to have a tubal ligation. I was going to get my tubes tied. Get fixed. Spayed. Submit to the permanent solution.
I had a lot of people asked me if I was sure, including my doctor. They seemed to think it a bit premature and extreme. Sure, they knew we didn’t want more kids, but did I need to do something so drastic as wipe out my reproductive capacity forever?
We don’t have many choices after a certain age. If you ask me, given the fact that they now have phones applications that can turn on your oven to preheat before you leave work, we should have a lot better birth control options than we do in this day and age. So what do we have, especially for those of us really too old to have children and still young enough to ovulate? The Pill, while highly effective when used correctly, is generally for the young. After age 35, especially if you smoke, oral contraceptives are dangerous. You might not want kids, but you probably don’t want blood clots or a stroke, either. Same thing with the Depo-Provera injections and the Norplant – too many dangerous hormones. I understand the IUD is making a comeback. Call me squeamish, and I know the kind that killed you was like 30 years ago, but they sound horrible and barbaric. I have no desire to have plastic and coils embedded in my reproductive organs. Cervical caps? Like oral contraceptives, they still release hormones that aren’t always safe for those within a stone’s throw of menopause. Diaphragms? God no. I had trouble getting the Sponge (remember those?) in correctly, and it usually took me 45 minutes to remove it; I can’t fathom being coordinated enough to properly insert or extract a rubber trampoline with the diameter of a grapefruit from my hoo-ha. That pretty much leaves the other barrier methods – condoms and/or spermicidal foams, creams, and suppositories. I can tell you that those suppositories are messy and they usually burn for hours afterwards. Not good. Condoms are your best friend in protecting yourself from STDs and HIV, but their effectiveness against pregnancy when used alone and perfectly is only in the 90 percent range. Not good enough. Not even close.
Everyone asked me why I didn’t have my boyfriend get a vasectomy. Yes, they’re safer and usually cheaper. However, they’re not always permanent, and I found that possibility terrifying. My parents had a friend in her 30s who married a man in his 50s who’d had a vasectomy roughly 20 years previously. They’d been married a few months and she got pregnant. Things were obviously pretty tense between her and her surprise baby daddy until he got tested and found out he was no longer shooting blanks. The vas deferens (the tube that stores and delivers sperm) can spontaneously regenerate, and a man who’s had a vasectomy needs to go in every couple of years to be tested to make sure his snip is still snapped. Again, not good enough.
Tubal ligation seemed to be a no-brainer. And it was, really. You do need to consider that although performed laparoscopically, the procedure is still considered major abdominal surgery, as you need to go under general anesthesia. They make two incisions, one through the navel, and the other right above the pubic hairline, and fix some sort of clamp over each fallopian tube, thereby stopping the egg from traveling to the uterus. Simple yet genius. They even gave me a full color picture of the clips after they were “installed.”
The recovery time was a day or two. There was some abdominal discomfort, but the worst of it by far was the nausea from the anesthesia. Bleh – I would have rather had more pain. You’re not supposed to lift anything or do much activity for about a week. I took it as an awesome opportunity to lay off the housework.
There have been some studies that have shown that a small percentage of women who have had a tubal ligation go through some fairly serious difficulties, such as disrupted menstrual cycles, sexual problems, and depression. I guess I was lucky, as the only negative symptom I experienced following the procedure was about six months’ worth of nasty mittelschmerz, where one experiences some pain and discomfort when ovulating. And then it was gone.
A tubal ligation cost me $100 with my insurance, plus a few bucks for the post-op pain meds. The success rate of this type of contraception is about 1 pregnancy in 1,000 women. Not perfect, but better than the other options. There is no more schlepping to the drugstore for birth control or fussing with it when you’d rather be getting down to business. No more panicked peeing on a stick every few months. It is one less thing to worry about. Works for me.