Birth Control Options When (you think … you might be … you’re pretty sure) your Family is Complete

Birth Control Options When (you think … you might be … you’re pretty sure) your Family is Complete

We’ve all been there.  Staring down the barrel of a loaded diaper (the 6th one of the day), thinking, “That’s it. I have officially run out of the energy I’d need to go through this phase again with another child!”

Mom changing baby's diaper

As much as we love these precious little merry-makers and the joy they add to our families, undeniably, they are 1) expensive, 2) loud, and 3) tiresome — and mom & dad aren’t getting any younger during these child-rearing years! Deciding when, how, and under what conditions to complete your family is a big — often emotional — step. And whether you take that step with trepidation, or whether it’s a flying leap (much like your toddler took off the couch into the corner of the coffee table last Tuesday), the decision marks a huge rite of passage in your life as a woman and mother.  


Female Options

Like anything else, there are options to be weighed, and the “best one” will vary from woman to woman. Your doctor or midwife is always available to help steer you in the right direction for your unique situation.

Recently, the FDA explained the pros + cons of permanent birth control, listing the benefits and risks. Here’s a quick run-down of the most common:

Tubal Ligation, the process of blocking, clipping or “tying” your fallopian tubes, is the only truly permanent birth control for females. A tubal ligation can be performed with a laparoscope as an outpatient procedure any time after pregnancy, or upon the decision to have permanent sterilization. This procedure requires minimal downtime for recovery. 

Wait, wasn’t your girlfriend at playgroup just talking about non-surgical tubal ligation with Essure? Probably.  

Essure is a popular type of “ligation”, in which a tiny spring-like device is threaded into each of the two fallopian tubes. A substance embedded in the coils irritates the lining of the fallopian tubes, causing scarring that (in about 3 months) completely blocks the passageway between ovaries → eggs → sperm. Typically, this can be done in our office, and doesn’t require an incision or general anesthesia.  But remember, for 3 months after the procedure, you’ll need to have a backup contraceptive plan.couple jumping for joy

The freedom that comes with not having to worry about birth control ever again is the biggest “pro” of tubal ligation, making it the most popular form of permanent birth control among married couples.

However … the permanence of the procedure is also the “con” of this birth control method.  Some women (especially those who elect for the procedure prior to age 30) experience post-surgery regret when the “unexpected” happens — life changes, relationship changes, and sometimes, simply a change of heart. Reversing the procedure is costly, there is no guarantee of success, and insurance rarely covers the cost.

Male Options

For men, a vasectomy is the sterilization procedure that provides permanent birth control. This simple procedure (generally speaking, safer and less painful than sterilization in women) is usually done in a doctor’s office while the man is awake, with local anesthesia to dull any pain. A small incision is made, through which the tubes that carry sperm are tied off and cut apart, burned or blocked with surgical clips. The incision is stitched closed, and the patient is able to return home immediately to nurse his minor wounds with a bag of frozen peas.

Once again, the pros and cons of the procedure are its permanence. Reversing it is difficult, expensive, and like tubal ligation in women, there is no guarantee of success.

Never is a Really Long Time

Not sure if you’re 100% ready to close the chapter of this book?  There are other long-lasting, if not permanent, forms of female birth control, such as implants (which last 3 years) and IUDs (which last up to 10 years) that can buy you the time needed to make a decision that brings you and your partner peace.  Ask your doctor or midwife which might be best for you.

In the end, deciding that your family is complete, and taking certain steps for permanent birth control, can bring about a new sense of spontaneity and freedom for couples. Embrace this new phase, acknowledge the many emotions that come along with the decision, and go out and have fun with your precious, complete family!

mom holding baby in the air