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Permanent birth control options have become more varied and more reliable in recent decades, but vasectomies and tubal ligations are still very popular options for couples who want to make sure that they don't conceive, ever again. Is it possible for a vasectomy, or a tubal ligation, to go wrong and cause a pregnancy despite all odds?

Getting pregnant even if the male partner has undergone a vasectomy is very rare. Yet, it does happen. A woman participating in an online forum I frequent freaked out recently, because her period was late and the pregnancy test she took showed a faint line. Everyone started debating whether this woman was pregnant, or her missed period just announced the start of the menopause.

But something else also happened. The woman who wanted to know if she was pregnant in spite of her husband's vasectomy casually mentioned that he never went for his post-op checkup that is supposed to make sure there are no live sperm in his ejaculate. Then, several other women appeared, also announcing that they fell pregnant after a vasectomy without the post-op checkup some posted pictures of their "oops" kids.

So, what's up with that? Why would someone go through the trouble of getting a vasectomy, but neglect to attend that crucial appointment that tells them that it actually worked? The message is clear if you want to avoid getting pregnant, do go to that appointment. Even with that, in rare cases, the vas deferens can grow back together. It's good to have the occasional checkup to make sure everything is still severed.

Even tubal ligations can produce a pregnancy in rare cases, but it's usually an ectopic pregnancy. These pregnancies are not only impossible to carry to term, they can also quickly become life-threatening. With an ectopic pregnancy following a tubal ligation, sperm somehow makes its way to the fallopian tubes, but because the woman had her tubes tied, the fertilized egg is not able to make its way to the uterus. There is not much that can be done to predict this situation, so the only advice we have is to not be completely closed to the possibility you may be pregnant, and to head to the doctor if you have unusual pelvic symptoms.

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