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

Women in the advance provision group were more likely to report using a less effective method of birth control-such as condoms-instead of oral contraceptives, which are more effective. Twenty-eight percent of women in the advance provision group reported using less effective methods at the end of the study compared to the time of enrollment, versus 17 percent in the information-only group.

"The implications of this finding are unclear since consistency of condom and contraceptive use improved overall in both study groups from enrollment to the end of the study. For example, if a woman uses oral contraceptives inconsistently and switches to condoms but uses them more consistently or with emergency contraception as a back-up method, this may have a positive impact on unintended pregnancy rates. Future studies need to be done to determine the impact of increased emergency contraceptive use on STDs and unintended pregnancy rates," Raine said.

The key clinical implications from the study concern the role of the provider, according to Raine. "Providers need to present information about emergency contraception within the context of education about other forms of contraception, and to give their clients advance provision so they will have this important method of contraception in hand when needed," she said. "Many of the potential barriers to using emergency contraception are removed when an individual has it at home in advance."

The researchers noted that these barriers range from awareness that an emergency contraceptive method exists to specific knowledge about how and where to obtain it and the correct time of its administration. While most women ages 18-44 (66 percent) report that they have heard of emergency contraception, only 1-2 percent report having used it, according to the research team. Most health care providers consider it safe and effective, yet few routinely discuss it with patients or prescribe it, they said.


Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
University of California - San Francisco

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