I guess it’s more accurate to say “I no longer have Fallopian tubes”, because those are the “tubes” I’m referring to and I used to have them. In fact, I still had them a week ago. But then I had them removed. Why? Well, my husband and I are approaching our mid-30’s and have four young children. As much as I respect each individual family’s choice whether they want zero or fourteen children and are young or old when they start pushing them out (or adopting), four and thirty-three ended up being the magic numbers for us. The baby-making “planting the seed” portion of our lives has ended and we’re officially graduating to growing our kids up into (hopefully) decent adults… but that’s a story for another article.
Today we’re talking about my tubes.
I wasn’t originally planning to have my tubes removed. I actually tried other forms of birth control first. Four different kinds actually. And I have four different kids. Those statistics speak for themselves. My husband and I started seriously discussing permanent birth control while pregnant with our fourth child and we knew it was the right choice for us. It turns out that choice is just the first of several choices when it comes to getting sterilized though.
We started researching the different options available and originally settled on my husband getting a vasectomy. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea after discussing the procedure (and the consequent pain involved) with other vasectomy survivors (aka friends and family who already had it done). Still, he agreed that it was a far less invasive procedure with way fewer risks than anything offered for me… but then we were waitlisted. Apparently there aren’t a lot of doctors who perform that procedure in our area and even fewer that accept Medi-Cal. We waited. And waited. And waited. And after several months started looking at other options.
At this point my due date was getting closer and I approached my ObGyn about tubal ligation. Specifically, I wanted to sign an authorization to have my tubes tied if for any reason I required a C-section. This opened a discussion on various ways of sterilizing the Fallopian tubes (just in case a cesarean section wasn’t needed, which was statistically unlikely after having already vaginally delivered three children in five years). Old school “Tubal Ligation” involves surgically cutting, tying or blocking the Fallopian tubes and was the only tube-related procedure I was aware of at the time. My ObGyn said it was definitely an option but also told me about tubal implants, which don’t involve surgery.
With tubal implants (like Essure), tiny metal springs are inserted into the Fallopian tubes through a vaginal procedure. Scar tissue then builds up in the little spring implants, blocking the tubes. The risks involved with surgery are alleviated but it takes time for scar tissue to build up and requires a confirmation test after three months… and sometimes a secondary confirmation test after six months. It also carries additional unique risks, like the possibility of the implants migrating into the abdomen or lower pelvis which would require surgery to remove. Plus it carries a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy than other methods… And all I heard was “possibly ineffective and risks, risks, risks…”. Surgery sounded better to me, or at least safer and more definitive.
Once it was firmly established that I was not opposed to surgery, my ObGyn suggested that I might also consider a tubal removal procedure. In other words, completely remove my Fallopian tubes, instead of just blocking or cutting them. I had never heard of such a thing, so I started asking questions… Then I went home and started doing research… Then I went on internet discussion boards and started asking questions… Then I went back to my ObGyn and signed an authorization form confirming that if a baby had to be cut out of me for any reason, my Fallopian tubes would also be making an exit.
For me, there was one big benefit that stood out in my quest for information: Removing the Fallopian tubes reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer. I hate ovarian cancer. My grandmother was in her 50’s when she came to stay with our family in my childhood home, her body in the midst of being ravaged by the ovarian cancer that would shortly take her life. I was just a girl at the time but still remember watching daytime talk shows by her side, taking short walks with her around the neighborhood when she could barely manage to shuffle her feet from the pain and rubbing her back when she came home sick from chemo treatments. She cried when I gave her one of my stuffed bunnies for her birthday. I cried at her memorial service. I hate cancer. Especially ovarian cancer.
It was because of the same genetics that my grandma and I inherited that put me at a higher risk than most people to develop the disease myself someday. But removing the Fallopian tubes reduces that risk. Significantly. Some studies actually show that 50 to 84 percent of the highest risk ovarian tumors originate in the Fallopian tubes. That’s not a small number.
That being said, I checked into the Outpatient Surgery department of our local hospital last Wednesday, three months after delivering my fourth child without a C-section. I arrived at 8:30 AM for my 10 AM scheduled “Laparoscopic Bilateral Salpingectomy”. By 2:00 in the afternoon I was home again, tubeless and with four small incisions on my belly, a terrible sore throat and period-like spotting. I can’t bend down or lift anything for a few days and have prescriptions for ibuprofen and pain medication. Although rough at times, recovery hasn’t been as bad as I’d anticipated though. But this was my very first surgery ever, so my expectations may not have been realistic. Still, I have absolutely no regrets. Not only can I stop worrying that I’ll accidentally create life (don’t you hate it when that happens?!) but I’ve also significantly reduced my risk of developing ovarian cancer, consequently increasing my chances of seeing my grandchildren someday. Plus, I’ve opened the door to years of inappropriate jokes that make my husband uncomfortable…
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with tubal removal surgery and am happy to answer any questions. Feel free to leave a comment below.