April 2004

The role of emergency contraception

Trussell J, Ellertson C, Stewart F, Raymond E, Shochet T. The role of emergency contraception. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. April 2004; 190(supplement 4):S30-8

Emergency contraception is an underused therapeutic option for women in the event of unprotected sexual intercourse. Available postcoital contraceptives include emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) both with and without estrogen, and copper-bearing intrauterine devices. Each method has its individual efficacy, safety, and side effect profile. Most patients will experience prevention of pregnancy, providing they follow the treatment regimen carefully. There are concerns that women who use ECPs may become lax with their regular birth control methods; however, reported evidence indicates that making ECPs more readily available would ultimately reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancies. In addition, it is typically conscientious contraceptive users who are most likely to seek emergency treatment. Patient education is paramount in the reduction of unintended pregnancies and there are numerous medical resources available to women to assist them in this endeavor. Finally, ECPs are associated with financial and psychologic advantages that benefit both the individual patient and society at large.