New technique makes sterilisation safe for all

Dr Judy Kluge
A new technique for female sterilisation makes this safe and effective form of contraception accessible to women who in the past could not have the procedure due to medical reasons.

The new method, called hysteroscopic sterilisation, is a non-surgical procedure requiring only standard pain killers. This makes it possible for women who were denied sterilisation due to the risk of anaesthetic and abdominal surgery to also undergo the procedure.

In the past a woman required a general anaesthetic to have a sterilisation, as her fallopian tubes (which carry sperm to the ovaries) could only be tied off or clipped through open abdominal or keyhole surgery.

But with hysteroscopic sterilisation, coils are placed inside a woman's fallopian tubes hysteroscopically (via the vaginal opening) while the patient is awake.

"After sterilisation a woman's womb and ovaries function as they normally would have, making it a good option for women who can't use hormones," says Dr Judy Kluge from Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

"This procedure is very beneficial. Conditions that put women at risk for surgery and anaesthesia can also make a pregnancy life threatening or limit a woman's choice of the contraception she can use."

In addition, female sterilisation is a cost effective and practical form of contraception that reduces a woman's chance for pregnancy to only 0.5%. And with male sterilisation the risk for pregnancy drops even further to 0.15%.

"A sterilised man can have sexual intercourse as he normally would and he would still be able to ejaculate and have orgasms as usual – the ejaculate just won't contain sperm. A man's sterilisation can be performed under local anaesthetic with minimal risk of undergoing surgery," explains Kluge, a specialist in family planning.

Unlike other contraceptive measures, sterilisation does not require any further visits to a health care facility.

Sterilisation is a good option for couples who are certain that their families are complete, but for those who might want children in the future there are various other options.

"No contraceptive method is 100% safe in preventing pregnancy, but the chance of falling pregnant is very low," says Kluge.

The contraceptive implant lasts three years and reduces the risk of pregnancy to only 0.05%. The copper intrauterine device (IUD) lasts between five and 10 years and reduces a woman's chance of pregnancy to 0.8%, while the progesterone-containing IUD lowers the risk of pregnancy to just 0.2%.
Wilma Stassen