Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Sterilization


Sterilization (sirus) is prohibited for men and women. For men, the prohibition is on a Torah level, while for women the prohibition is rabbinic according to most authorities.

This prohibition is widely understood to apply to a permanent change and not to a temporary state. Therefore, reversible methods such as hormonal contraception or an IUD do not present a halachic problem of sterilization. On the other hand, there are halachic limitations on pursuing permanent methods such as tubal ligation or vasectomy.

Tubal Ligation

Medical Background

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are blocked, cut, or removed. It is often performed via a small abdominal incision (laparascopy, or postpartum minilaparotomy). It can also be performed during a cesarean section.

Tubal ligation works by preventing fertilization. When the fallopian tubes are cut or blocked, sperm cells are unable to reach the egg cell, and fertilization cannot take place.

Tubal ligation is usually permanent. In some cases, it can be surgically reversed; however, such surgery is complex and not always successful. Therefore, a woman should opt for tubal ligation only if she is certain that she wants to avoid natural conception for the rest of her life. (A woman who has had tubal ligation can conceive or carry a baby via IVF.)

Efficacy

Tubal ligation is 99.5% effective.

Halachic Considerations

As above, tubal ligation raises the serious halachic question of sterilization (sirus). Therefore, halachic consultation is essential for a woman considering it. Though the prohibition for women is rabbinic, halachic authorities generally permit tubal ligation only in very extenuating circumstances, where there is a compelling need for contraception and a woman cannot use permissible reversible methods.

Since the procedure can sometimes be reversed, although with variable success, authorities may sometimes rule more leniently. According to some authorities, there may be a preference for techniques of tubal sterilization that are more likely to be reversible.

 

Vasectomy

Medical Background

Vasectomy is a surgical procedure in which the vas deferens, the tubes that convey sperm from the testicles, are tied off, cauterized, or blocked.

Vasectomy works by preventing sperm cells from entering a man’s semen.

Vasectomy is usually permanent. In some cases, it can be surgically reversed; however, such surgery is complex and not always successful.

Efficacy

Vasectomy is 99.85% effective.

Halachic Considerations

Vasectomy raises Torah-level concerns of sirus, and thus is prohibited as a method of contraception.

 

Other Procedures

Certain medical procedures, including hysterectomy, oophorectomy, and endometrial ablation for women, or prostate surgery for men, can lead to permanent sterilization. These procedures are generally halachically permissible when medically required. Even so, one should ask a halachic question before undergoing such a procedure.

 


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All health and health-related information contained within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health care professional. The advice is intended to offer a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider but not individual advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that the material within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is accurate and timely, it is provided for the convenience of the Web site user but should not be considered official. Advice for actual medical practice should be obtained from a licensed health care professional.