A female sterilisation is a surgical procedure to block the tubes, usually requested by women who feel they have completed their families, providing an effective non hormonal form of contraceptive. Blocking the tubes prevents pregnancy as the sperm and eggs can no longer meet. This procedure is offered in both the NHS and private settings.
For some women their circumstances may change following sterilisation. This leads to around 10% of women regretting having had the procedure and some of those women asking “can you have IVF when sterilised?” A common scenario would be following a divorce or separation, a woman meets a new partner and decides she would like to have another child. Sometimes a financial situation can improve to the point where a pregnancy, previously considered prohibitively expensive, can now be afforded.
The question is, if you have been sterilised and want a further pregnancy, what is the best way to achieve this? IVF or reversal of sterilisation?
How Does IVF Work After Sterilisation?
When asking “can you have IVF when sterilised”, you need to know that it is a myth that you can only have IVF (in vitro fertilisation) if you first undergo a reversal of your sterilisation, as IVF works by bypassing your fallopian tubes. During the IVF process eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, fertilised in the lab (in vitro) with sperm and then transferred into the womb as embryos. Any extra embryos will be preserved through a freezing process to allow further embryo transfer attempts if needed. Other than the fact that as we get older IVF success rates begin to drop, there is no time limit on how long after sterilisation you can undergo IVF.
A typical IVF treatment cycle generally costs between £5000 and £10,000, depending on what treatment is needed. The average success rate per IVF cycle is around 34%. NHS funding is available for some couples, but to meet the criteria for funding neither you nor your partner can have had children in the past. As such, most women who have been sterilised will sadly not be eligible for NHS funding.
In contract to IVF, reversal of female sterilisation (a surgical procedure to re connect the blocked tubes) costs around £5000 and carries a pregnancy success rate following surgery of up to 75% over the following year. It also allows many women the opportunity to have more than one child in the years following surgery, without the need for repeat cycles of IVF.
What About A Reversal Of Your Sterilisation Instead?
Alternatively, you may consider having a female sterilisation reversal and compare this against the cost of IVF. Reversal of sterilisation should only be performed by an experienced surgeon such as Mr Dobson. A consultation would be needed to see if you remain fertile to warrant the surgery. Although there is some recovery time too, there are no medications to take and then pregnancy can occur naturally meaning no intervention, such as in IVF, is required. It is worth remembering that the chance of becoming pregnant then returns to normal, as in a normal population of women who have not had a sterilisation in the first place. The current cost for a reversal of sterilisation is around £5125 (2023) and this includes meeting with Mr Dobson, the reversal surgery and aftercare.
IVF also carries varying costs depending on whether you get it on the NHS or you decide to have it done privately. One cycle of IVF could cost in the region of £5000 or more, and success is not always guaranteed with just one cycle. Bear in mind that women applying for IVF treatment on the NHS will have to fulfil certain criteria based on age, how long she has been trying to become pregnant and whether she has undergone IVF treatment previously. If a woman is over the age of 43, she is unlikely to be considered suitable for IVF by the NHS but be aware that suitability criteria can vary across the UK. Requesting IVF after sterilisation would almost certainly mean that private treatment would likely be the preferred option.
It is clear that a decision to have IVF after sterilisation is not one to be taken lightly but as a question of “can you have IVF if sterilised”, the answer is yes. However, the financial and emotional implications on all parties concerned should be carefully discussed and considered before embarking on a procedure which may or may not be successful.
Can You Have IVF When Sterilised? The Risks
Like with any surgical or medical procedure, IVF does carry some small risks. Some of these risks include:
- Side effects from the medication can include headaches, nausea and hot flushes.
- The hormone medication which is used to stimulate the ovaries into egg production can cause Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This can cause abdominal bloating, pain, nausea and vomiting and very rarely blood clots.
- IVF treatment also carries a higher risk of twins, triplets or more! This is especially common if more than one embryo is transferred. Whilst it may sound nice to have twins, multiple pregnancies do carry extra risks during pregnancy to the mother & the babies.
- Failed cycles with no eggs or embryos.
- Ectopic pregnancy (5-8%)
- Damage to organs & blood vessels in the tummy during egg retrieval
Reversal of female sterilisation also carries risks however. These risks include:
- Blood clots
- Failure (1-2%)
- Damage to organs and blood vessels in the tummy (rare)
- Ectopic pregnancy (6%)
IVF vs reversal surgery
Reversal of female sterilisation procedure
Ovarian hyperstimulation (5-10%)
Injury during egg collection (<1%)
Medication side effects
Multiple pregnancy (6-8%)
Failure to retrieve eggs (<1%)
Ectopic pregnancy (6-8%)
Pelvic infection (uncommon)
Damage to organs in the tummy (rare/ <1%)
Failure to repair both tubes (1-2%)
Ectopic pregnancy (6%)
Up to 75% pregnancy rate in year following surgery.
For couples who wish to conceive following female sterilisation, their decision is whether they want to undergo reversal surgery or IVF treatment. Hopefully this article has helped dispel any myths and explain some of the relative pros and cons of each treatment option.
If you are considering a pregnancy following female sterilisation and would like to speak to a qualified fertility sub-specialist about your options, including reversal surgery & IVF, contact Mr Dobson’s P.A, Mandy Banbury, at or phone 0115 9662111 to arrange a face to face or telephone appointment.