The birth control method that just might save your life
"Are you sure about this?" my doctor asked for what seemed like the 17th time since his nurses had begun prepping me for my surgery an hour before. "There's no turning back after this," he continued to explain.
For over a year, my husband and I had been fairly confident that we were done having children. Our kids are 15 months apart in age and, up until we found out that we were unexpectedly expecting our second child, we had momentarily considered being a "one and done" family. Looking back, I could not possibly be happier with the little boy that unexpected pregnancy gifted me with, but I'm content with never being that surprised again for the rest of my life.
We adore our kids, but we're not in the market for more. When I found out I was pregnant with our second, I was taking birth control, so we definitely weren't in the market then, either; my doctor explained that a different medication I was taking could have interfered, or that I could have mixed up my pills somehow, but that I wasn't the first (and wouldn't be the last) woman to get pregnant while using birth control (though yes, it is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy). The universe is just funny like that.
After I delivered my second son, my doctor addressed the birth control issue with me again. I told him that I was ready to get my tubes tied; he was somewhat hesitant and encouraged me to think about it before I made such a permanent decision. So, I opted for an IUD instead and took some time to mull it over.
We were fairly certain that we were done having kids, but the fact that I would never be physically able to carry a child again did make me sort of sad. I don't like words like "never," so the permanence of getting my tubes tied was an idea that I knew I would have to get used to. After a year had passed, my husband and I discussed it again, but this time we were 100 percent positive that we were ready to move forward as a family of four.
I saw my doctor the next week to have my IUD removed. During my appointment, I told him that although my husband kindly offered to have a vasectomy, I wanted to get my tubes tied instead. He didn't question my decision this time but instead informed me that he, along with many other obstetricians, had recently started using a bilateral salpingectomy (removal of both fallopian tubes) instead of a tubal occlusion (traditional "tying" of the fallopian tubes) as the primary sterilization procedure. The procedure takes only a few minutes longer, and it spares the ovaries, so there are no physiologic or hormonal changes once the tubes are removed. It also has the same risks and recovery time as a traditional tubal occlusion, which is minimal.
He explained that by removing both of the fallopian tubes entirely, the risk of an ectopic pregnancy in the fallopian tubes was eliminated. If gone undetected, ectopic pregnancies can rupture and become life-threatening, so obviously removing the fallopian tubes would be beneficial in that aspect.
He also explained that research has shown that some of the most common and aggressive ovarian cancers develop in the fallopian tubes, rather than the ovaries. So by removing the fallopian tubes entirely, a woman's risk of contracting such a deadly disease is decreased significantly.
Ovarian cancer, though fairly rare, is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths. It's so hard to detect because women rarely experience any symptoms that would be cause for concern. Women that have tested positive for certain gene mutations, like BRCA1 or BRCA 2, have an increased risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer, and women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer are also at an increased risk.
I am unfortunately a part of that demographic. I lost my mother to breast cancer when she was just 34 years old. Since then, I have been hounded by every physician I've ever seen to be vigilant with my own health, and I'm constantly reminded by them to always be on high alert for any abnormalities. Since breast and ovarian cancer are so closely linked, and I have such an unfortunate family history, a simple procedure like a bilateral salpingectomy could be a game-changer for me and so many other women like me.
The decision to go forward with having my fallopian tubes removed was a no-brainer for me. My mom's time on this earth was cut drastically short, and I don't ever want my boys to have to experience what it's like to grow up without their mother. So, as I was being wheeled into the operating room when my doctor asked me yet again if I was sure that I wanted to go through with the surgery, my answer was easy: "Absolutely."