Committee Opinion: Access to Postpartum Sterilization
The Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women developed a Committee Opinion on Access to Postpartum Sterilization. Postpartum tubal sterilization is one of the safest and most effective methods of contraception. Women who desire this type of sterilization typically undergo thorough counseling and informed consent during prenatal care and reiterate their desire for postpartum sterilization at the time of their hospital admission. Not all women who desire postpartum sterilization actually undergo the surgical procedure, and women with unfulfilled requests for postpartum sterilization have a high rate of repeat pregnancy (approaching 50%) within the following year. Potentially correctable barriers to obtaining postpartum sterilization include patient and health care provider factors, as well as hospital and health care system issues. Given the consequences of a missed procedure and the limited time frame in which it may be performed, postpartum sterilization should be considered an urgent surgical procedure. In addition, women with government insurance face barriers to sterilization procedures based on cumbersome consent requirements. The differences in the requirements surrounding consent for sterilization procedures based on the type of insurance a patient has must be addressed in order to establish fair and equitable access to sterilization procedures for all women. Policies and procedures that remove barriers to and increase efficiency in performing postpartum sterilization could reduce cancellations of the procedure. Improving consistency in accomplishing desired postpartum sterilization is an important strategy to reduce high rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States.