Emergency contraception is used when needed but doesn't increase high-risk sex, according to UCSF study

Young women who have an advance provision of emergency contraception are more likely to use it when they need it, but its availability does not appear to increase risky sexual behavior, according to a new study by University of California, San Francisco researchers.

Emergency contraception, also known as oral post-coital contraception and often called the morning-after pill, prevents pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. The treatment regimen consists of a series of elevated doses of oral contraceptive pills (levonorgestrel) taken within 72 hours of intercourse. The UCSF study followed 213 young women between the ages of 16 and 24 who were considered at very high-risk for unintended pregnancy and who were patients at a publicly funded family planning clinic in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Study participants were assigned to one of two groups: those receiving educational information about emergency contraception along with advance provision of a single treatment dose and those receiving only information. Researchers compared behavior patterns in the two groups over a four-month period.

This type of data had not been collected previously in the U.S. or in such a high-risk population, according to lead investigator Tina Raine, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences who treats patients at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center and the New Generation Health Center, a clinic affiliated with UCSF and SFGHMC.

Study findings are reported in last month's issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Senior study investigator is Philip Darney, MD, MSc, UCSF professor and chief of the Department of Ob/Gyn at SFGHMC.

The study found that women who had emergency contraception on-hand were three times more likely to use it than women who only had received information about it, and they did not have more unprotected sex or use condoms less.


Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
University of California - San Francisco

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