Original research article| Volume 95, ISSUE 3, P234-238, March 2017

Request and fulfillment of postpartum tubal ligation in patients after high-risk pregnancy



      Female sterilization is one of the most prevalent methods of contraception in the United States. Prior studies have shown that nearly half of postpartum tubal ligation (PPTL) requests go unfulfilled. This study seeks to establish whether obstetric or medical risk status influences patients' request for or subsequent completion of PPTL.


      This study was a retrospective cohort study of women delivering at a university hospital in 2009–2010 who received prenatal care in the faculty and resident clinics. High-risk status was defined by Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine guidelines. Documentation of contraceptive plan and administration of contraceptive methods was abstracted from patient records. Subsequent pregnancies through March 1, 2013, were abstracted.


      Of 3063 participants (2048 low risk and 1015 high risk), 231 requested PPTL (7.5%). This was more likely among high-risk patients than low-risk patients (10.0% vs. 6.3%, p<.001), those with public insurance (13.8% vs. 3.2%, p<.001) and those with an unintended index pregnancy (13.8% vs. 4.1%, p<.001). Of the patients requesting PPTL, 118 (51.1%) underwent the procedure immediately postpartum. Completion was not associated with high-risk status (54.0%), or with race, insurance status or parity. Among 113 women with an unfulfilled PPTL request, there were 17 subsequent pregnancies (15.0%) during the 27 months of follow-up.


      Though women with high-risk pregnancies were more likely to request PPTL, they were not more likely to complete the procedure. Over one third of high-risk patients' requests were unfulfilled, indicating that significant barriers may remain.


      Though women with high-risk pregnancies were more likely to request PPTL, they were not more likely to complete the procedure. Providers should consider these procedures urgent, especially in high-risk women, and advocate for their patients' access to this procedure.


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