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Permanent Birth Control Options

For women who are finished having children, it can be a dramatic shock to learn that you’re pregnant – and fortysomething.

More than half of these pregnancies are unintended and are a result of birth control gone wrong, says Dr. Barbara Levy, an OB/GYN and author. And, as Dr. Walter Evans, OB/GYN at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, points out, a positive sign can be attributed to negative myths surrounding contraceptive use.

“Many women just play the odds instead of planning,” he says. “They might think that because they’re older they’re less fertile – which is true, yet it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for them to conceive.”

Levy adds: “If a woman knows that she’s done having children and she’s struggling with finding a birth control option that fits her lifestyle, she might want to consider speaking to her doctor about more permanent contraceptives.

If you are indeed looking for a forget-about-it form of birth control, Levy suggests considering either an intrauterine device or (irreversible) tubal ligation. “[An IUD] is very effective and most women like the fact that it doesn’t require invasive surgery,” Evans says.

Tubal ligation can be performed surgically or by a new, less-invasive procedure called Essure. The Essure method (called tubal obstruction) requires the insertion of spring-like coils into the fallopian tubes. In a time span of approximately three months, the body builds up tissue around the insert, closing off the fallopian tubes. “Essure is highly effective and it’s performed in your doctor’s office,” Evans says. “The only bad thing is that it takes three months for a woman’s tubes to close and an X-ray exam is required as a follow-up.”

Whatever your choice, Levy says it’s important for women over 40 to be aware that pregnancies can occur, and that there are plenty of options out there to fit any mom’s busy lifestyle.