October 2001

Emergency contraception: Randomized comparison of advance provision and information only

Ellertson C, Ambardekar S, Hedley A, Coyaji K, Trussell J, Blanchard K. Emergency contraception: Randomized comparison of advance provision and information only.Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2001; 98(4):570-575

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether multiple courses of emergency contraceptive therapy supplied in advance of need would tempt women using barrier methods to take risks with their more effective ongoing contraceptive methods.

METHODS: We randomly assigned 411 condom users attending an urban family planning clinic in Pune, India, to receive either information about emergency contraception along with three courses of therapy to keep in case of need, or to receive only information, including that about the locations where they could obtain emergency contraception if needed. For up to 1 year, women returned quarterly for follow-up, answering questions about unprotected intercourse, emergency contraceptive use, pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and acceptability.

RESULTS: Women given advance supplies reported unprotected intercourse at rates nearly identical to those among women given only information (0.012 versus 0.016 acts per month). Among those who did have unprotected intercourse, however, supply recipients were nearly twice as likely (79% versus 44%) to have taken emergency contraception, although numbers were too small to permit statistically significant inferences. No women used emergency contraception more than once during the study, even though everyone in the advance-supplies group had extra doses available. All women found knowing about emergency contraception useful, and all those receiving only information wished they had received supplies as well.

CONCLUSION: Multiple emergency contraception doses supplied in advance did not tempt condom users to risk unprotected intercourse. After unprotected intercourse, however, those with pills on hand used them more often. Women found advance provision useful.