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Pregnancy After Sterilization: Uh-Oh!

Surprise!

When I was a kid, my brother and I grew up knowing my dad had had a vasectomy.  It was no secret: my parents had wanted a boy and a girl, and only that, and that was exactly what they’d gotten.  It was their ideal family.

Yet, I yearned for another sibling.  I kept hoping that somehow the vasectomy would fail, and my mom would accidentally get pregnant so that I could have one.  Of course, it didn’t happen, and my parents were well into their 40s anyway by the time I really wished this, and definitely completely done having children.

Although I didn’t get my wish, this does happen to some people: pregnancy after sterilization!  (That is, a vasectomy or tubal ligation.)  Did you know?

Out of all the birth control methods out there, sterilization — more commonly a vasectomy, but also a tubal ligation — is thought of as the most fool proof and definitely permanent.  After all, once you’ve been “snipped,” as it’s commonly called, you can’t have babies anymore, right?

Wrong.

Supposing that a vasectomy is performed properly and a man is checked by a doctor to have a sperm count of zero, there is still a 1 in 2000 chance that he will impregnate his partner.  For men who haven’t been cleared, it’s likely much higher.  Since it can take a man 50 – 60 ejaculations to clear all the sperm from his body, if he fails to use protection during this time, pregnancy is definitely possible.  It’s recommended that a man return one year after his surgery to get his sperm count checked.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the surgery could fail to take, that the tube could re-grow, or that it could fail in another way.  It’s not common, but…it does happen!  Babble recently featured an article that describes the situation of two couples, both raising “sterilization babies” — special, but totally unexpected!

For tubal ligation, the failure rate is actually much higher — 5 to 18 out of every 1000 women will become pregnant (0.5% – 1.8%, compared to just 0.05% for vasectomies).  The problem is, scar tissue may not form, tubes may reconnect, or eggs could be released and somehow get fertilized even without the tubes (that’s how ectopic pregnancies can occur part of the time).  The longer the procedure’s been done, the higher the failure rate.

Sterilization procedures clearly aren’t fool proof!

These statistics are something to consider if you’re thinking about getting either of these procedures done.  Despite your best intentions, you may end up pregnant.  Most don’t, but…are you going to be one of those “Surprise! You’re pregnant!” stories?

If you have gotten either procedure done (or your partner has) or you are considering it, what do you think about this?

Top image by janineomg

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